Time-Tracking Options for Freelancers

We’re back with a review of more time-tracking services that are especially useful for Freelance consultants. Accurately documenting the time spent on project assignments is important in many ways, primarily to ensure that billable hours charged to clients are correct.  Plus, most time-tracking services will generate an invoice that you can click and send and some will also allow you to accept online payments with bank-level security.

In addition, time-tracking services generate useful reports that show the number of hours you spend on certain types of assignments, information that is useful when creating proposals for projects that you’d like to take on, since it will be necessary to predict the time you expect to spend on the proposed project, which will impact your pricing and determine whether it will be most advantageous for you and the client to choose an hourly rate or project fee payment arrangement.

Harvest

Track time spent on projects easily and efficiently with Harvest, even when you need to follow several projects that contain different tasks that are priced differently. Furthermore, when coordinating a team project, you’re able to assign and time-track various tasks within a project for specific team members.

Reporting is a strength: raw time sheet data will be presented in a visual summary that depicts how your time or the team’s time has been utilized, with key project metrics collated into intuitive reports. The service also generates professional-looking invoices based on your project fee or hourly rate, as determined by the time you’ve logged.  Click and send invoices to clients and receive online payment, confident that site security is bank-level.

Harvest is free for one person to track maximum two projects/month and $12 for one person to track an unlimited number of projects/month.  Harvest

RescueTime

Freelancers who’d like to document how they’re spending time when working on a project and who are not kept on a short leash by a manager will appreciate RescueTime.  It’s not possible to send reports to your client, but you can nevertheless track your time and obtain an accurate picture of your productivity.  You will also receive detailed reports that show you the apps and websites you visited.

As well, RescueTime will record time spent on email and the amount of time you linger on any website. If you’d like to limit the time spent on non-work related websites, then ask the system to block your browsing on any chosen site after a certain amount of time.  Further, you can set goals to inspire yourself to stay on schedule with your project. The premium service plan also allows tracking of off-line time for activities such as telephone calls and meetings. RescueTime Lite is free and RescueTime Premium costs $9.00/month, or $72.00/year.   RescueTime

Tick

Each time you submit a time entry, Tick updates your project and task budgets in real time and reports back to you.  If you regularly track time against an hourly rate determined budget, or a project fee that involves an important deadline or penalties for late completion, then Tick may be your ideal time-tracking solution. It’s also possible to track time on multiple projects simultaneously.  While the service can be used by a solo Freelancer, it is especially suited for a team.

Tick is free if a single user employs the service for one project per month, $19.00/month for an unlimited number of users who’ll track a maximum of 10 projects/month and up to $149.00 /month for an unlimited number of workers to time track an unlimited number of projects.   Tick

Toggl

If you neglect to click the session start button, the service will allow you to enter your working time after the fact, which is helpful for those who are very busy and prone to forget. The service is structured with a team in mind, but it works well for solo professionals.

The service works on all devices, desktop and mobile. Helpful analytic reports will be generated, so you’ll get the big picture of where your time is spent, depending on your assigned tasks.  There is a free version, plus Starter and Premium.  The $9.00 /month Starter package appears to give the best value to Freelancers.   Toggl

Klok

Most helpfully, the service lets users recall and analyze data from previous projects, information that enables you to develop proposals for future projects that will more accurately reflect the time needed to reach key milestones and achieve deadlines. The historical time-tracking data will also help you to price at a level that is fair to both you and the client.

The basic package includes a visual display of your time as you work, plus screenshots, exporting of time sheets, dashboard reporting and invoicing all for a one-time purchase price of $20.00 for up to three users.  Klok Cloud Sync, Klonk Pro and Klokwork Team Console are also available.   Klok

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Orloj, the famous 15th century astrological clock in Prague, Czech Republic

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Time-Tracking Freelance Work

How many of you use time-tracking so that you can accurately count your billable hours when on assignment? I still count hours the old-fashioned way and I know that I cheat myself out of no less than an hour or so every week. My bad! I’ve occasionally thought about time-tracking assistance, but I never knew where to begin. A new year will soon welcome us and that’s a traditional motivator to set goals and improve work habits.

As I suspected, time-tracking systems have their differences. Some are designed with remote teams in mind; others make a department manager’s life easier. Certain time-tracking systems have been created to address the needs of Freelancers and we’ll sort through a sampling here:

Due Time Tracking

Due Time is free and easy to use—just create a task, start the timer and launch your session. You can click and add notes to detail the project you’re working on. Due Time also includes an automatic idle time detection feature, so you’re able to make allowances for stepping away from your project now and again and still remain accurate in tracking your work hours.

You’ll be pleased to find that Due Time will generate hourly rate or project fee invoices when you enter the rate. Due Time makes it easy to organize client information by name, address, or even payment currency.  Due Time

TopTracker

Along with tracking the number of hours you spend on project tasks, Top Tracker offers screen shots and webcam shots that document your work. Screen shot pages can be deleted or configured to automatically blur before uploading, so that the image is recognizable to you but all text is obscured. The service works with nearly every freelancing platform and will produce a detailed project activity report to document your performance. The service is free.  TopTracker

Sighted Time Tracking and Invoicing

Sighted Time Tracking seamlessly integrates the functions of time-tracking and invoicing, packaged in either the free Basic Service plan or the Premium Plan at $4.00 /month. You can make detailed project notes for every session and also automatically send invoices for hours worked that are customized for billable hours or project fee.

Furthermore, users can send out quotes to prospects when invited to bid on a project and accept credit or debit card payments online and issue a receipt to the client. Plus, you can do it all on your desktop or mobile device.  Sighted

Tick

Each time you submit a time entry, Tick updates your project and task budgets in real time and reports it back to you.  If you regularly track your time against an hourly rate budget of project fee that involves an important deadline or penalties for late completion, then Tick may be your ideal time-tracking solution. It’s even possible to track time on multiple projects simultaneously.  While the service can be used by a solo Freelancer, it is especially suited for a team.

Tick is free if a single user employs the service for one project per month, $19.00/month for an unlimited number of users who’ll track a maximum of 10 projects/month and up to $149.00 /month for an unlimited number of workers to time track an unlimited number of projects.  Tick

Four more time-tracking options will be examined in the next post. Have a good week!

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Sundial at the Gate of Honour at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridgeshire, England

Stress Takes A Holiday

The holiday season has arrived and with it a boatload of potential stressors, good and bad. The delight of being a party host or guest are examples of good stress (and if this is not the case, your stress management assignment begins with asking yourself why you bother?).  The process of Christmas shopping and the associated costs of time and money, along with holiday cooking and cleaning, are examples of potentially bad stress.  In this post, I offer stress management techniques that can prove to be beneficial all year round.

Time management and boundaries

The always-on 24/7 lifestyle that so many of us feel compelled to lead is a huge stressor. The ability to set priorities and boundaries is more important than ever.  In most cases, there is no need to be available for professional matters before 8:00 AM or after 8:00 PM.

In your personal life,  learn to say no to controlling people and time-wasters, even if those individuals happen to be family members.  Have the courage to acknowledge what is important to you and distance yourself from manipulative people. Unhook your feelings of self-worth from the need to “save” people.  Help yourself to achieve goals and fulfill responsibilities by making lists and schedules and allow yourself sufficient time to complete tasks.  Learn to delegate.  Accept that some tasks are low priority and may need to be removed from your list.

Anger management

Learning to handle our emotions is a lifelong proposition.  Awareness is the first step.  Be advised that all of our emotions are “justified” because that is how we feel at that time.  It is your right and responsibility to define and acknowledge the emotions you feel.  The skill set called Emotional Intelligence teaches us to refrain from allowing our emotions to overwhelm us, cloud our judgment and lead us to do or say things that may damage our relationships and credibility.

Anticipate encounters with people who you may find upsetting and rehearse your responses to words and behaviors that you may experience as hostile and disrespectful.  Role play with yourself replies that could potentially defuse a stressful conversation and allow you to put distance between yourself and the stressor, limiting contact and helping you to control your emotions.  Be mindful that some people enjoy trouble and they are constant agitators.  They crave attention and control.  Do what you can to banish these individuals from your life.

Exercise

Exercise releases into the body hormones (endorphins and serotonin) that counteract the “fight or flight” response hormones that are released when we are under stress (adrenaline, ACTH).  Exercise also improves the functioning of the immune system and in the process helps us to fight off certain diseases.  Some experts recommend that we would be wise to participate in physical activity four or five days a week, for at least 45 minutes per session. You may play a sport, ride a bike, swim, walk, do aerobics, yoga, Pilates and/or lift weights. Experiment with different types of exercise to learn what you like and do it on a regular basis.  Exercise provides physical release and reduces tension and stress, calms and clears the mind, helps us to sleep better and improves self-esteem.

Meditation

The relaxation response is enabled by meditation and other self-regulated relaxation techniques.  Meditation requires only a few minutes of your time and a private, quiet and comfortable location.  Watch a YouTube video to show you what to do.  Shut off the television and your telephone.  Choose a word or short phrase to silently repeat to yourself as you close your eyes and breathe in and out, slowly and deeply.  Meditation enthusiasts recommend that you meditate early in the morning before starting your day, or in the evening just before dinner.

Sleep

Inadequate sleep is epidemic these days and it is seriously detrimental to one’s health and ability to manage stress.  Surprisingly, sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain by releasing the stress hormone cortisol, which increases appetite.  When we are fatigued, our choice of foods is usually unhealthy and laden with sugar for an energy boost, or high fat, or salty.  The stage is then set for taking on unwanted pounds.

Being tired undermines creativity, judgment and decision-making, productivity and self-discipline.  Do what you can to get in those eight hours each night.  Be advised that caffeine and alcohol are for many the enemies of sleep and intake should be limited near to bedtime.

Nutrition

Physical, mental and emotional stressors drain the body of complex nutrients that support optimal physical and cognitive functioning.  If these nutrients are not replaced fairly quickly, coping skills diminish, decision-making ability suffers, fatigue ensues, mood and emotional control deteriorate.

Avoid the temptation to consume foods high in fat, salt, or sugar, or consume excess caffeine or alcohol, while in the midst of a stressful event.  Do yourself a favor and eat a bagel with peanut butter, a rice bowl with vegetables, a sandwich, or a plate of pasta.  Over the long-term, eat a balanced diet that supplies adequate amounts of green vegetables, fruits, proteins and carbohydrates.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Procrastination: Wrestling the Demon

The Bible named procrastination as one of the Seven Deadly Sins, classified as Sloth, that is, persistently failing to do what one should do. Evil exists when good (men) fail to act. Entrenched procrastination most certainly has the potential to ruin one’s life and such procrastinators are able to adversely impact family members and colleagues as well.

Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and a noted researcher in the field of procrastination, reports that the disorder takes several forms and that he and fellow researchers have identified two primary types:

1.) Chronic procrastinators, who are perpetually unable to complete tasks.

2.) Situational procrastinators, who delay taking action on tasks that are considered particularly loathsome.

Procrastinators are unable to learn from the negative outcomes of their avoidance behavior. That they have suffered previously from failing to fulfill responsibilities does not motivate them to get busy when the next important task appears. Procrastination is the “quintessential” breakdown of self-control, according to Ferrari and his fellow researchers.

At this point in the story, I would have liked to present a neat and clever solution to the problem, all artfully phrased to make me look smart. But I’m sorry to say that solutions for procrastination are weak. Situational procrastinators have the best prognosis and everyone falls into this category from time to time. The next time that you just can’t face up to doing whatever, set a personal deadline and find the discipline to adhere to it, so that you’re not frantically working to get things done. Just do it and move on.

But chronic procrastinators are a very tough nut to crack. I know this from personal experience, because many years ago I had a long-term relationship with such an individual. His inability to make good decisions, which included chronic malignant procrastination coupled with passive aggressive behavior, caused me to leave him. I guess he loved me, but not enough to get his act together. I will never get over the disappointment that he caused me.

Ferrari suggests that organizations can diminish the common tendency to wait until the last-minute to complete tasks by rewarding early action and de-emphasizing penalties for lateness, in the process shifting from the threat of punishment to the pleasure of reward and keeping the lid on stress along the way.

On a personal level, which is where the procrastination battle lives, Ferrari advises to refrain from enabling chronic procrastination…..”let the fridge go empty, let the car stall out. Don’t bail them out.” However, that approach to fulfilling responsibilities will sometimes adversely impact the other half of the couple and it is not always practical to allow that to happen. As I found out, chronic procrastinators are not good life (or business) partners because they do not hold up their end. You may have to terminate the relationship, because things are unlikely to get better.

If you are a chronic procrastinator reading this post, consider that we all have only so many years in life and it is important to get on with things. It is a given that sometimes we have to suck it up and do what we don’t like. But then it’s off your plate and you can think about the fun things.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Procrastination and Productivity

Who among us has not allowed a deadline to approach because we just could not pull ourselves together and do what we needed to do? Some things we just hate to do. Sometimes, we can’t get started because we don’t know where or how to start. We fear that we are not up to the task. Other times, we really do have too many other important things on our plate and we feel overwhelmed. We fall victim to procrastination.

“What I’ve found is that while everybody may procrastinate, not everyone is a procrastinator”, says Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and a pioneer in the study of procrastination. He goes on to say that (procrastination) “really has nothing to do with time management”. His research revealed that an inability to manage emotions is the root cause of procrastination.

When psychologists initially studied procrastination they adopted time and value as their metrics, asking “Why does this person not perform a simple cost – benefit analysis of doing what they must vs.ignoring their responsibilities”? Unfortunately some of us, and from time to time all of us, choose immediate and sometimes minor gratification over more significant rewards that pay dividends in the long-term.

So instead of going to the gym at 6:00 AM we lie in bed for another 30 minutes. When we might work out after work at 6:00 PM, we instead go out drinking with friends. We put off doing our taxes and sit around watching re-runs on television instead. Professor Ferrari and others feel that procrastination happens for two primary reasons:

1.) We put off the task because we are not in the mood to either start or complete it.

2.) We assume that we’ll be in a more appropriate frame of mind to complete the task in the near future.

Needless to say, putting off until tomorrow that which one should do today may bring on guilt, anxiety and defensiveness. To ease our consciences, we often make little bargains with ourselves and vow to clean up our act going forward (“If I go out tonight, I’ll work out for 90 minutes tomorrow”). That approach can work but for some of us, the avoidance behavior that is procrastination will kick in again and tomorrow there will be another excuse (“I have so much work to do, I can’t get to the gym and even if I do go, I’ll be too exhausted to do a good workout”).

Getting stuck in a procrastination pattern does one’s self-esteem no favors. Beneath the defensive attitude that may be thrown at those who dare question why you’re not doing what you should do is self-loathing. You feel like a loser because you know you’re screwing up and no amount of self-righteous denial can hide that fact from yourself.

Procrastination is not to be confused with positive behaviors such as caution, where you think first and weigh the possible consequences of moving forward to take action; pondering, when you examine a problem and discover solutions that you can expect will be useful; or prioritizing, when you assign a value to and rank your responsibilities and complete highly ranked tasks first and the least important tasks are done last, if at all. Procrastination represents a gap between intention and action.

Next week, we’ll look at common forms of procrastination and strategies that may resolve or ameliorate the problem.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

2Q Pep Talk and Organizing Primer

Hello there, Freelancer and welcome to second quarter 2015. As a precaution against slowly sliding off-course, let’s take a look at some Freelance consultant basics that will keep stress at bay and you in the mood to work hard and smart to achieve your goals of business success, as you define it. Free or low-cost technology can help.

Budget your income

Poor financial management = sleepless nights and stress.  Your paychecks are irregular and taxes are not withheld.  Check stubs and business expense receipts can be misplaced, making it difficult to track accounts receivable and payable.  How you keep track of your revenue/ income is your choice, but keep track of it you must,  along with deductible business expenses. An Excel spreadsheet is your level one financial management tool.  Whenever you receive a revenue check, get into the habit of recording the payer, amount and date.  Save the check stub as well and keep them all together in a place that you’ll remember. Record also your accounts payable business expenses and save the receipts alongside the revenue checks.

If you are in the mood to pay, Intuit has two choices for you.  QuickBooks is the gold standard of bookkeeping and basic financial management for business ventures large and small. QuickBooks will produce income statements and balance sheets monthly, quarterly and annually and make sure that you know where you stand financially.  For about $10/month,  through a basic QuickBooks app on your smart phone or tablet, you’ll be able to download transactions from your bank account and credit cards; separate your business and personal spending; track all of your IRS Schedule C Profit & Loss From a Business variable expenses; calculate and pay estimated quarterly taxes; do it all with the same security encryption as your bank.

Intuit’s Mint will pull together all of your financial transactions and arrange in colorful and easy-to-decipher graphics that depict your financial picture. Get started for free and add your accounts. Mint will analyze all of your financial transactions: checking and savings account activity, credit and debit card activity, investments like brokerage and retirement accounts, and IRA rollover offers and will make recommendations as to how you can pay less, save more and earn more.

Mint will essentially do your budgeting for you, by calculating your average spending by category so that you can create a budget based on an accurate assessment of your spending patterns.  This is the way to create and achieve your savings goals, whether for retirement, for a home, or vacation.

Manage your time

Recognize and respect priorities and refuse to allow the time-suckers to take over your life.  Time is totally money for Freelance consultants and we bill by the hour, or on a project basis. Do whatever you can to devise and approach your to-do list with good time management in mind. At the very least, keep a written calendar in which you can see a monthly view of your appointments (it is superior to a weekly view). Record your obligations and the due dates, so that deadlines will be met. On your smart phone, make use of the Notes app, so you can easily jot down important dates or deliverables.

Evernote is a very handy technology tool that works on your desktop or laptop, tablet or smart phone and costs between zero and $10/month. When you’re working on a project, your notes can even be transformed into a screen-friendly graphic lay-out that works for a client meeting. Access attachments, including PDFs, all your notes and images, too. The details of your project will be easily available and readily organized. You will look so professional and in-charge!

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Risks and Rewards of Time Management Triage

As of September 22 at 10:30 PM,  Summer 2014 ended and Autumn officially began.  September is a hectic month for many,  as projects that have been in limbo since June,  because completion would require more time and energy than the principals could muster during July and August,  are resumed.  September is when you pick up the thread and work toward a pre-Christmas victory.  It is time for you to evaluate both work responsibilities and social invitations and decide who and what are worth your scarce time and energy.

One must learn to triage,  as emergency room physicians and nurses do,  and give ourselves permission to prioritize and move forward with what has either value or consequences and ignore what and whom are a waste of time or a low-risk write-off.  Following this strategy is not without its own set of consequences and depending on who is tugging at your sleeve,  things can get uncomfortable.  Please,  allow me to rant for a minute.

At various times in my life,  I’ve had the misfortune of interacting with one or more disrespectful,  manipulative,  boundary-crashing and supremely entitled time-sucking vampires who shamelessly and relentlessly took every opportunity to control my time and hence,  my life.  These were personal relationships and thankfully not work relationships,  but the scenario was no less stressful just because a paycheck and professional advancement were not at stake.  I am inclined to believe that women encounter this problem more often than do men.  Sadly,  both women and men will disrespect women on a regular basis.

Be advised that failing to triage one’s time also entails consequences.  The only way to have the time to fulfill important responsibilities and also participate in activities that you enjoy is to neutralize the time-suckers.  It will not be easy.  These folks are determined to get their way and they do not give up without a fight.  Expect wheedling and pestering and be prepared for possible escalation to accusations,  emotional blackmail,  harassment,  lies and guilting.  Whatever you do,  never give in to a campaign for attention and control.

But I am getting melodramatic here.  The situation is not always so heavy.  It’s just that you must recognize that you are not obligated to do everything that you’ve been asked to do,  because it’s impossible.  Your first qualifier is doing what will bring consequences if you ignore it.  Taxes come to mind,  along with deadlines for important work projects.  Activities and special occasions that involve your children and spouse will closely follow in priority and and events that involve your parents,  siblings and close friends will occupy the next tier.

Less pressing work projects,  volunteer commitments,  acquaintances and relatives whom you like are the next level down and anyone after that can take a number.   You may decide to decline or ignore their requests because quite honestly,  they are not sufficiently important to you.  If Uncle Stanley is a mean-spirited idiot who enjoys undermining people,   why would you waste time going to his birthday party?  Do not let your mother guilt you into it.

According to Ed Battista,  executive coach and instructor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA,  the key to making time management triage work is acknowledging the emotional aspects involved in saying no or ignoring people.  Attempting to assume an intellectual approach may not be useful,  for reasons that I’ve mentioned above.  The time-suckers are masters of arm-twisting and no one wants to be portrayed as cold and callous.

Battista recommends that we must aim to expand our comfort with discomfort.  Difficult emotions and awkward  “scenes”  will no doubt have to be managed in the triage process and that is a by-product of our need to control and allot our time and energy as we see fit.  Among the skills that may be helpful is acquiring the vocabulary to communicate how overwhelmed our current responsibilities make us feel and how the prospect of additional obligations will make us feel.  The line of people demanding attention may be long,  but we must learn to say a kind,  but firm “no” when it makes sense to do so.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Working Hard to Work Smart

Yoo-hoo,  wake up!  Labor Day is behind us and it’s time to get serious about business.  Our Summer reverie is over until next year.  As inspiration,  I will speak with you about  “working smart”  vs. “working hard”.  That dichotomy has roamed through the popular press for quite some time,  but experience tells me that it is a straw man argument.  In reality,  if you want to be successful and realize your dreams and ambitions,  you are going to work both hard and  smart.  It has never been either or.  It’s both.

Working smart means prioritizing and devoting scarce time and resources to people and projects that deliver results.  Some ideas and activities are very appealing at first glance,  but either they do not have the potential to pan out in the way you would like or you lack the resources to bring about the desired outcome.  Research and analysis shows that time and money would be wasted there,  so you move on.

Effective hard work requires one to work smart.  There are 24 hours in a day and we do need time to sleep and eat,  as well as attend to responsibilities other than work.  Not everything can be outsourced.  The willingness and discipline to roll out of bed at 5:00 AM and work productively until 10:00 PM or even later may be the sweat equity one needs to invest to make the concept viable and sustainable.

Founder of the hardware and software integration company MicroSolutions and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team Mark Cuban knows all about working hard and making sacrifices.  Those behaviors supported him as he built MicroSolutions into a $30 million business.  In his role on the ABC-TV reality show Shark Tank,  the billionaire angel investor has found that aspiring entrepreneurs who have the discipline to learn more about their product,  their business model,  prospective customers,  the marketplace and the competition have the greatest chance for creating a successful enterprise.  He claims that money and connections are not as important as one might think  (I beg to differ on that point).   Cuban goes on to say that if you fail,  decipher what went wrong,  re-group and re-launch.

Cuban also cautions against constantly designing your products and services to give the customer what they say they want.  He advises business owners to solicit customer opinions about what could be made to function better and make doing business with you easier,  but to avoid relying on customer opinions to create future offerings.  Cuban points out that creating the road map to the future is the business owner’s job.  One stays in business by offering products and services to the customer that they don’t know they want until you give it to them.

But understand that hard work,  smart work and study won’t guarantee that you’ll create a successful business,  either.   Contrary to Cuban’s assertions,  connections count  (especially in the  intangible services arena,  where word-of-mouth is powerful);  money counts  (especially when funding the development of a product);  and good luck and timing count  (he may agree with these last factors).  Vision,  ingenuity and risk calculation also matter and these will impact your luck and timing.   Also,  let us not underestimate the momentum-building power of your absolute belief in your product or service and your ability to communicate that passion and enthusiasm to prospective customers and investors.

I leave you with a quote about working hard from Alexis Ohanian,  co-founder of the social news website reddit  and author of Without Their Permission  (2013) “I was willing to burn the candle at both ends.”

Thanks for reading,
Kim

“Sorry, I Really Don’t Have Time To Meet…”

Although Summer officially ends on September 22 this year,  by custom the season ends on the day after Labor Day and this year we are back to work early on September 2.   If you were a smart and ambitious cookie,   you met with a good prospective client or two during Summer and you have plans in motion that will improve your chances of having a profitable 4th Quarter.  But maybe there are still a couple of people you’d like to connect with?

We all have someone on our prospect list whom we have been unable to reach.  This prospective client is often prestigious and holds the promise of green-lighting a big payday.  It is frustrating when we can’t get added to this person’s calendar.  Yet there are sometimes ways to capture lightning in a bottle and schedule that much-desired prospect meeting.  Good luck and timing will be involved,  but these will be aided by your ingenuity.

If you have not yet met your prospect,  then try to arrange a personal introduction.  Personal introductions are more effective than self-introductions and an introduction made by someone who is trusted by the prospect will be the most effective.  Tap into your LinkedIn connections and scroll through the connections of your connections.  It is a tedious process,  but you may discover a shared connection who could arrange to introduce you to your prospect.

Second,   conduct an internet search to find out what has been written about the prospect.   You may learn that this individual sits on a board where you have a friend who can facilitate an introduction.  You may learn that your prospect will present or moderate at a conference.  If that is the case,  then you should attend,  if possible.  Take notes at the presentation and ask a good question.   After the talk,  follow-up and speak with the prospect.  Your question will make your self-introduction easy to do and your good question will give you credibility.

Once you’ve met your prospect,  you will ask for a meeting.  Your prospect is a C Suite dweller who has many demands on his/her time.   In order to earn a sliver of that person’s time,   you must demonstrate that you will bring value,  that your meeting request is not all about you.   Find out what subjects may resonate with your prospect by searching for news about the prospect’s company;  for articles that your prospect may have authored;  for articles in which he/she was quoted;  and read postings on the company’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.  In addition,  visit the company website and find out if any interesting news has been posted.

Information gleaned from your research will be used to devise and present your value.   If you can teach your prospect something that he/she would like to know about,  then you are sharing  knowledge and insight and not just attempting to extract  a favor or a contract.  If you found that the prospect has authored an article or book,  or that he/she has been quoted,  then offer compliments and comment.  Because you will have made it known that there will be something in it for the prospect,  he/she will be more likely to agree to meet with you,  however briefly.

Offer to buy your prospect coffee or a quick breakfast and state what you’d like to discuss.   Additionally,  state that perhaps he/she would appreciate information on the subject that you’ve identified as potentially relevant.   Ask for 30 minutes of time.  If you learn that the prospect is on the way to another meeting,   offer a ride if you have a car and get another chance to not just talk,  but build a relationship.

24 hours after the meeting,  send written thanks.  An email may suffice,  but if the meeting was especially productive,  then send a short hand-written note on your company stationery or in a small note card that appears business-like.  Reconfirm any agreed-up actions and the time-table.  No matter the outcome of the meeting,   use the encounter to build the foundation for a lasting business relationship.

Thanks for reading and happy Labor Day weekend,

Kim

Self -Discipline, the Secret of Your Success

How do you build a successful life and business? Good fortune helps tremendously,  but it is possible to if not actually create your own good luck,  then create the drive needed to build the best life possible.  Business coach and strategy consultant Dan Kennedy advises that we develop self-discipline.  To help our understanding of the concept, he breaks self-discipline into four parts:

Will power

Will power is the core of self-discipline.  It’s like a muscle and if we want to develop that muscle and ascend to self-discipline,  then practice is required.  As with running or weight lifting,  start small and gradually build to more challenging work.   Making yourself vacuum and do laundry could be a good place to start,  if those tasks bring out avoidance behavior in you.   Speaking of exercise,  scheduling and completing a certain number of weekly workouts is another way to simultaneously build our will power and physical muscles.   Set up a rewards program when important milestones are achieved.  Massages and facials are nice relaxing gifts to yourself.

Awareness

Value and respect time and boundaries,  your own and that of others.  Cease immediately selfish and controlling behavior.  Appreciate that everyone has responsibilities that very likely must be completed within a certain time frame.  Calculate  in realistic terms how long it will take you to travel from point A to point B,  for example,  and give yourself the appropriate time to reach your destination at the appointed hour.  The pay-off to your reputation will be significant.

Decision

Kennedy notes that all achievement is fueled by decision-making.  If we acknowledge our priorities and then decide to make those priorities a reality,  then we will do what is necessary to ensure their creation and sustainability.   Self-discipline is integral to decision-making.  Refusing to exercise self-discipline has deleterious consequences.

Should we decide to not decide,  we table decision-making indefinitely and never become a responsible and productive adult.  If we are paralyzed by the process of decision-making,  we become trapped in a vortex and squander all opportunities to utilize or attract good fortune.  Such an individual becomes a wastrel.  Decision-making is goal setting and all self-disciplined individuals identify and pursue goals.

Action

Kennedy points to three kinds of action,  which I interpret as an arc: planning,  implementation and completion.  Once the decision is made,  a plan is then created,  to give yourself a road map and timetable to bring your goal into reality.  In business,  one would think strategy and action planning.  Next,   implement your plan and see it through to completion,  making any necessary adjustments along the way.

This is the point at which self-discipline becomes essential.   As we all know,   many initiatives are begun with great enthusiasm,  but not all are completed.  Give your self-discipline a fighting chance and set SMART goals for yourself:  specific,  measurable,  attainable,  relevant and timely and then create a strategy and action plans that make achievement of your goals a likely possibility.  If you anticipate obstacles,   build into your strategy a way to overcome them.

Self-discipline is the foundation of a successful life and it brings many rewards,  not the least of which is integrity and authenticity.  I would consider those attributes to be the most desirable personal brand.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year,

Kim