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How to Encourage Yourself – A Lesson Learned from Abe Lincoln

I used to live in Washington, D.C. as a teenager (many years ago) and one of my favorite places there was the Smithsonian Institute.  If we ever had a free afternoon, we would head over and just choose one small area and look around.  I think we had season’s passes.  I absolutely love American history, so that area of the Smithsonian was and still is, my favorite.  One display houses the personal belongings that Abraham Lincoln had on his person the night he was assassinated.  One item is a well-worn clipping from a newspaper…a very positive, favorable article, singing the praises of this great man.  The article called him, ‘One of the greatest statesmen of all time.”

If you are a history buff, you know that Abraham Lincoln was a humble man and by no means an egomaniac.  History also tells us that Lincoln battled self-doubt during his entire presidency, and it was at an all-time high during the Civil War, when it seemed that everyone was at odds with him, on both sides of the fence.

I think it is telling that a beloved man such as Abe Lincoln would carry around a newspaper clipping reminding himself that there were those who admired and respected him.  He needed to know that.  He had only to reach in his pocket, draw out the article clipping and read it to encourage himself.

Why am I telling you this story about Abe Lincoln?  Because the very first person you should be encouraging is yourself.  If you are the leader of a business, or a team of any kind, you won’t be able to lead your “troops” if you are in a state of continual discouragement.

Here are some ways to encourage yourself:

  1. Make personal mementos that are easily seen – What have you accomplished in the past that you would do well to remember?  Memorialize it with a memento of some sort.  Abe carried his newspaper clipping.  Are you an artist?  Then frame some of your best art for yourself.  Have you won awards?  Dig them out of that box and display them in your office or your home.  In the Old Testament, God told certain people to build memorial “stones” to remember their triumphs.  Even if you buy a bag of those smooth stones from a craft store, and keep one in your pocket to remind you of something wonderful, that’s a good start.  Be creative – figure out what ways you can tangibly encourage yourself with reminders.
  2. Surround yourself with people who believe in you –  Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Good advice.  Choose your inner circle very carefully.  We all need cheer leaders, and we need people who will tell us the truth and still believe in us.  We can trust these people because they are both honest and they believe in us.
  3. Keep the end in mind – We will do well to know that there is a particular reward at the end of our efforts.  Keeping the reward ever before you will give you a rush of adrenaline as nothing else can.  If you aren’t excited about the destination of your journey, no one around you will be either.  Use anticipation to your advantage.  Always be looking to the future and how it will be different because of the race you are running.
  4. Be an encourager to others – If we expect to be encouraged and respected by others, then we must become an encourager and one who shows respect for those who follow us.  This would apply to parenthood, management, or any other position of influence that you find yourself in.  People are watching you – your kids, your employees, your friends, your clients, your vendors, etc.  They will take their cues from you when it comes to attitude as well as behavior.  No matter the battles you are facing or the challenges you may be having, don’t let it keep you from being an inspiration to others.  What these people will bring back to you will be worth its weight in gold.  They will encourage and inspire you!

How do you encourage yourself?  Please leave a comment and tell me…

Stop Procrastination and Clear Your Mental Clutter

No one would want to admit to it, but we all procrastinate.  It’s something we fussed at our kids about, and our parents did the same to us.  But, here we are as adults, still finding that we procrastinate.  There are many things that will drain your energy and put a damper on your productivity, and I’ve already written about a couple of those things; namely, constant interruptions, and clutter.  Now, let’s tackle a biggie – procrastination.

First, please know that you’re not alone – even the most productive, highly motivated people on the planet will sometimes procrastinate.  The really mentally sharp folks will even cloak the procrastination as something else, such as “planning time” needed.  As if procrastinating will give me more time to let my creative juices flow.  I’m not suggesting that we all just jump into action with no sense of planning, but inside, you know when you’re using planning and creativity as an excuse.

Let’s discuss how we might fight back against this energy-sucking monster.  After all, I believe we sometimes waste more energy thinking up excuses than we would spend if we just got started and made course corrections along the way.

We talked in another article about the important of clearing the clutter in your surroundings.  The same thing applies to your mind.  The only way to get rid of the mental clutter that’s slowing you down is to get the “stuff” out of your head and into some kind of written system.

I read a book years ago that changed my life.  It’s called Getting Things Done, by David Allen. He instructed his readers to set aside a block of time (probably several days) with no interruptions, and simply DOWNLOAD.  I’ve also heard it called a “Brain Drain.”  You get a ream of copy paper (500 sheets) and set it on your desk.  Then, you write down everything that comes to your mind – things you need to do, things to plan, places to go, phone calls to make, projects to complete, shopping to do, etc…EVERYTHING, no matter how unrelated it may be.

And the ream of paper?  Well, you only put one item on a sheet of paper.  It may seem like a colossal waste of paper, but just do it.  After hours and hours of this, soon there will be nothing left in your head to create mental clutter – it’s all on the stack of paper.  Only at this point, can you begin to rebuild everything that was in your head into a manageable system.  I can’t tell you everything in the book, but I think I’ve made my point about the mental clutter.  I’ll give you a hint:  If you can do it in 2 minutes, then DO it.  If you need to DEFER it, put it on your calendar, and if you can DELEGATE it, then do that. You’ll have to get the book to see what to do next.  You can probably find it on a discount book website because it’s several years old now.

So, to recap…you MUST clear your mental clutter because it’s draining your energy.

You’ll find that when your mind is free from clutter, you’ll not be so tempted to procrastinate because your mind will be free to think, to create, to plan and to execute those plans.  Don’t procrastinate!  Get started now.

Leave a comment and let me know how you overcome procrastination.

Tips to Get Your Goals to Sprout Wings and Fly

We all know the power of goals, the power of vision, and the power of direction.  But once we know what our goals are, how to we give life to them?  There is a favorite Scripture of mine – Proverbs 29:18.  It says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I’ll paraphrase it, using some other translations:  “If people can’t see with clarity what God is doing in and through their lives, they’ll stumble all over themselves…but when they attend to what has been revealed, they are most blessed.” Wow!  That says a lot.  And to think it was written centuries ago – it sounds so relevant, doesn’t it?

Here are some great tips to consider:

Write down your goals – thoroughly and completely.  I’ll also use Scripture to illustrate my first tip.  It’s from the Old Testament – Habakkuk 2:2-3.  It says “Write the vision plainly – write it in big letters so that it can be read while you’re running with it.  It will be read by others and it will not lie.  It may be slow in coming, but wait patiently and it will happen right on time.” Again, that’s my paraphrase, using several different translations.  What can we take from this?

In today’s language, this would mean to write it down in a journal, or a blog, and publish it.  Get your vision out there for others to see.  God instructed Habakkuk to write the vision down in such a way that would motivate others who see it to get on board – and run with it.  I figure God’s instructions are probably good for me, too.

This brings me to my second point – Make it real by sharing with others. There is a part of this Scripture that makes me think that God expects us to have the kind of vision that includes others – motivating, training and bringing them along for the prize at the end.  It is helpful to know that your writing, your journals, your blogs have a greater purpose than just what you can see momentarily.  So, for goodness sakes, get going in writing down your vision and your goals.

Third point – Challenge yourself! There are some things that have done that are simply for the joy of the challenge.  I’ll give you an example.  It’s this article you’re reading (which I have repurposed into a blog post).  I am a Platinum Status Author on eZineArticles.com and I write regularly.  Some articles are for the sheer fun of the story, and other articles are meant to help small business owners with challenges they face.  A couple months ago, I saw that eZine was having a writing challenge – “Hundred Articles in a Hundred Days.”  You had to complete that challenge with articles of more than 400 words each.  I didn’t even see the challenge until it was more than 2 weeks into the hundred days.  Could I do it?  Well, what did I stand to lose?  Even if I couldn’t catch up by writing multiple articles in a daily basis, so what?  I would at least have a lot of new articles to use for blog posts, and to attract others to my eZine account.  So, I took the challenge.  It will be over in about 5 days, and I’m right on target.  YEA!  My point is this:  There is no big prize, no monetary benefit (at least not directly) and when my husband keeps asking me why I’m doing this, I tell him, “Just because it will feel good to complete it! And I can say I did it.”  So, challenge yourself…find ways that will stretch your skills, but aren’t impossible.  You will become a more productive person in all areas of your life when you are always reaching for more.

You will see a banner on the left of this page.  It’s concerning the Ultimate Blogging Challenge.  If you are a blogger, even a beginner, click on that link and challenge yourself!  It’s free but it will pay off in spades.  What are you waiting for?

Please leave a comment and tell me about your goals – have you written them down?  Have you shared them with others?  Are you challenging yourself?

The Day I Ditched Technology and Went Unplugged – I Learned an Important Life Lesson

Swedish Summer House

This week I got an email from a friend who has been my online mentor and teacher. She is visiting family in Finland, but she still finds time to write to her students and friends. She said she was getting ready to go spend the day at the “summer house.” Oh my, did that bring back memories! Let me tell you…

To The Top of the World

My daughter went to live in the north of Sweden right after college. Her reasons are far too complicated for the scope of this article, but she settled in a little village with 700 people, just 30 miles from the Arctic Circle. She soon became fluent in the language and she felt at home right away. This place was so remote you had to sometimes get out of your car and wave the reindeer off the road. I never understood her acceptance of such a radical culture change (she went to college in Dallas, TX), but she absolutely loved living there.

Her first summer, she would write to me and tell me about the “summer houses” also known as “stugas.” Seems that everyone has one. It’s usually a little cottage or cabin situated on a lake or other body of water, and it’s not uncommon for this summer house to have just one big room with some tiny little closet-like spaces for beds. They also usually come equipped outdoors with a sauna. Those stories you’ve heard about the Arctic people sitting in saunas and then rolling in the snow or jumping into cold water are not fiction.

The Invitation

So on with my tale…I went to visit several years ago in the beautiful month of September. It was unseasonably warm (in the 60’s) and there was still plenty of daylight. Of course, one of the families with whom she had grown very close, wanted to take me to their summer house for the day. I was thinking “activity” so I didn’t bring along my usual collection of writing supplies, books, and journals. I had no cell phone that worked there, and I also left my laptop in the house in the village.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into this one-room cottage and everyone found their way to sofas and rocking chairs and seemed to settle in. Soon my hostess, Elizabeth, had a big pot of something on the stove, and her husband, Joel, built a fire and there we sat…and we sat, and we sat. Elizabeth spoke almost no English, Joel’s was passable and he wanted to practice. My daughter promptly went to sleep in front of the fire, and there I was…with absolutely nothing to do except relax and chat a little.

Nothing to Do? You’re Kidding!

I’ll have to say, it took me a couple hours to really relax. I couldn’t remember the last time I actually had a day with no agenda. There was absolutely NOTHING I was required to do. Finally, I asked Elizabeth if I could help with anything (Please, say yes!) and she let me walk with her in the forest to collect lingonberries for the fresh sauce we would make for the reindeer sausage-stuffed potato dumplings that were cooking.

After that was completed, it was back to the rocking chairs, and the warmth of the fire finally made me totally relax, my crossed leg stopped keeping time with some internal rhythm heard by no one but me, and I finally moved to the sofa and fell asleep alongside my daughter. After a nice long nap, we woke up to have a very tasty traditional northern Swedish dish called “pault.” After dinner, we had another walk in the woods and I found a whole rack of antlers on the forest floor. They were too big to bring home as a souvenir, but I thought about it, for sure. We stoked the fire, played a board game or two (that was interesting, given the language differences) and then enjoyed perfect Swedish coffee and ice cream. I learned that the Swedes eat more ice cream, per capita, than any other nationality. With the temperatures below zero half the year – go figure!

When it was very late, I didn’t want to leave. Had it only been 12 hours since I had walked in, taken stock of the situation and become fearful that I would die of boredom? My daughter still laughs about that day. She had learned already that it’s a good thing to just get “unplugged” and enjoy doing absolutely nothing. It took me traveling more than 8,000 miles to the top of the world to figure this out.
Here’s What I Learned

Ever since then, I make sure that I have some days without an agenda. I don’t get to do it often, but now and again, it’s a necessity for me to be at my best for the rest of my very busy life. Whatever you do, learn to relax, at least once in awhile.

Leave a comment and let me know how you handle your technology overload.  Do you take a regular break?

Here I Go Again – Join Me in the Ultimate Blog Challenge!

Hello!  It’s August 1, and I can hardly believe that 2/3 of the summer is gone!

Usually, I take it easy in August and crank things into high gear in September, but this year, I took some time away from my normal schedule in July, and I’m ready to crank things up in August!  Kind of a warm-up for the 4th quarter.

To kick things off, I’d like to announce that I’m off and running to another 30-day blogging challenge (actually this one is 31 days).  This time it’s the “Ultimate Blog Challenge” (see the banner on the left) and the Twitter hashtag is #blogboost.

Can I talk any of you into joining us?

I’ve completed two other 30-day challenges this year and the results were well worth the effort.  For one thing, it got me into the habit of writing something everyday.  It forced me to organize my thoughts, and the best thing is that I met some fantastic new friends online.  Some I have done joint ventures with, and others I have purchased their products; some have purchased my products.

So, here we go…off to another great adventure!  If you’d like to join in, it’s free – all it will cost you is your time!  Click on the banner ad here on the left.

Even if you don’t join me in the Ultimate Blog Challenge, come back often as I have some exciting new things to tell you about right here on my blog.

Take Care,

Jeanne

Managing Email Before It Manages You

Email can take over your life.  There, I’ve said it!  But, it’s just little notes and messages, you say.  Yes, it’s just words, but it’s all coming at us at an alarming rate and it’s all mixed up together – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  As business people, we now depend upon email for all sorts of communication, and we certainly can’t afford to miss anything important.  So, how are we to manage our email before it manages us?  We’ll explore that very relevant question in this article.

First of all, if you think it’s simply a time management problem, you’d be wrong. It would be more accurate to say it’s an information management problem.  Information is rushing at us at such a rate that is almost not to be believed.  Some days, I feel like I’m standing in front of a fire hose with the power turned on full blast.  I’m conflicted – I love communicating by email because it’s so much faster than the telephone and I don’t have to chat.  But, I also feel that keeping up with it is actually keeping me from getting my work done.  Some studies have indicated that a whopping 40% of our workday is spent managing email.  That’s simply unacceptable!

So, what can we do?  Here are two tips.

  1. Reduce the sheer volume of email. – I came back from a conference earlier this year, and made a radical decision.  I had not even been able to get away for a training event without worrying about the mountain of email piling up.  When I boarded the plane to go home, I turned my cell phone into “Flight Mode” and reviewed all the emails that had downloaded onto my Blackberry.  I had several hours of time, so I made a little handmade spreadsheet and was able to determine that I simply had to let some of this stuff go – even the stuff I enjoyed.  When I got home, I unsubscribed from about 35 info-websites that had been sending me “stuff” on a regular basis.  Since then, I think I’ve even cut it down more.  No, I may not know what the sales are at Costco and Sears, and I may not have coupons readily available for the local grocery store, but at least I don’t have to think about it anymore.
  1. Save Your “Main” Email Address for Business Only – If you have a domain email address such as JohnDoe@MyCompany.com, use that for business only.  Get another email for personal use.  I recommend Gmail over all the others, such as Hotmail or Yahoo, or AOL. There are several reasons, which are beyond the scope of this article, so you can do your own research if you want, or just trust me on this – Gmail is the way to go.  I also have a separate email address just for my internet marketing research, such as when I sign up or “opt-in” for a special report or an eBook to get more information.  I used to clutter up my main business email account, but after I realized my email life had become unmanageable, I separated my life into three email accounts.

These are just two of the ways that you can begin to manage your email.  I will write again on this topic, so stay tuned.

Thank you for reading.

The Power of Words – Let’s Look at Email

There is power in words – always has been and always will be. No matter how sophisticated and “digital” we get, communication all boils down to words, and I don’t think real books are ever going away.

It’s the 4th of July weekend, and I pulled up the American Declaration of Independence online and read it in its entirety. It seems that our forefathers really had a way with words – so succinct, so simple, yet so powerful.

So, you may be wondering where in the world I am going with all this talk about words. Well, believe it or not, I want to talk about email. I think our world revolves around email these days in the business sector. There is a stream of information taking place on a daily basis that would simply be unfathomable less than a lifetime ago. I’ve even heard of some large corporations hiring an “Information and Knowledge Director” to their staffs. Email is the largest vehicle for this stream of information. Yet, most companies do not offer any training or set any standards concerning the use of email.

This lack of standardization and guidance for email use is getting some businesses into hot water, but even for those who aren’t into any discernable trouble, there are provable wastes in terms of time and ultimately, profits.

I believe the reason for this misuse of the powerful communication tool of email, is that email just kind of sneaked up on us. When I was in high school, we actually prepared for what would be required of us in a business setting – typing, shorthand, clear business writing skills, just to mention a few. But who remembers a course in high school or college teaching us how to properly use email? My guess is no one. It just slowly became the “way” to communicate in the business world. I’d have to think hard to trace it back to its beginnings in my entrepreneurial life.

I think that it’s time to pay closer attention to how we use email. Companies, even small companies need to set some standards and guidelines concerning email. I am currently in the process of writing an online course for that purpose. I believe it’s that important.

You can get a free video training on my company website entitled “Top Ten Inexcusable Email Errors” by clicking on Business Training Team and then choosing “Free Courses” from the left side bar. I invite you to take advantage of this to help you to begin to think about the power of proper email use.

I’m Grateful for Freedom!

I am writing this on a beautiful 4th of July, celebrating our freedom as a nation. As I ponder this freedom, I am reminded that we have the freedom to make a living as we choose, and that small business owners really are the heartbeat of that American freedom.

As I watch the History Channel and the story of our Revolution, the characters are portrayed as men and women of great vision and creativity, people of purpose, who lived by principles and values.  Small business owners in today’s economy are the same sort – skilled and creative, working toward a vision for the good of their customers and their own families, in the long run.

I’ve traveled a good bit this year and most of my time has been spent with entrepreneurial folks who haven’t punched someone else’s clock in a very long time.  I find that being with these people gives me hope for my own ventures and a positive outlook for my own children and grandchildren to accomplish dreams and goals for their lives.

I have been in business for myself for almost 30 years.  There have been times when I’ve gone to sleep with a knot in my stomach, wondering where the money would come from to continue on, or wondering how I would solve a sticky problem that seemed over my head and out of my skill set.  Somehow, it worked out, and I learned eventually that there is an answer to every problem if I look hard enough and ask for the right help.  I haven’t lost sleep in many years worrying about business decisions, and I’m at peace with my decision to be the captain of my own ship.  I find it to be as natural as breathing to work for myself.  I’m almost humored at the remarks I get from people sometimes when they learn that I work from my office at home.  They say things like, “Oh, I could never do that – I’d never get anything done.”  I find it odd that these people are willing to get in their cars, drive to someone else’s office, and follow directions given by someone else all day long, and then drive home, just to get up and do it all over again.  Why would you not be willing to do the same thing for yourself?  Think of all the freedom you would enjoy along the way!

I love my freedom, not only as an American, but as an entrepreneur and small business owner.  I have the freedom to work as little or as much as I want.  I have the freedom to succeed – or to fail.  But even when I fail, I have the freedom for it to be just another stepping stone toward success.  I have the freedom to learn from my mistakes.

So, thanks to all the men and women who have gone before to pave the way for this great American freedom.  May we not squander it!

If you are building your business and striving for your freedom, click on Business Training Team to see if there’s anything I can do to help you along the way.

Parting Words – To The 30-Day Bloggers!

30-Day Blogging Challenge is OVER!

Here it is — June 30!  The end of a 30-day blogging challenge, sponsored by Jeanette Cates, an unbelievably talented and supportive marketing mentor.  This is the second blog challenge for me this year, the first in April, sponsored by Connie Ragen Green.  This one was a little more challenging on several levels.  First, it was a busier time for me with several out-of-town trips, some major projects on my plate with my other business, and with a major re-structuring of my online business.  I live in Myrtle Beach, and as you can imagine, when school is out, family comes out of the woodwork, so to speak, to visit good ol’ Aunt Jeanne.  June has literally been a whirlwind. 

Some nights, I would sit at my computer, nearly brain-dead and with hardly an ounce of strength left in me, and wonder — what do I have to offer today?  But, you know what?  I always came up with something — something unique to me, something original, and something that I almost always re-purposed into an eZine article.  You see, I also signed up for a “Hundred Articles in a Hundred Days” challenge sponsored by eZineArticles.com.  So I really have learned a lot about repurposing.  I’ve also learned about a lot of silly mistakes that can get your articles kicked back for a little tweaking.  I have 40 days left in that challenge, and I’m a few days behind, but doing pretty well.  Those articles have to be at least 400 words long, so that’s why my blog posts are that long, too.  I didn’t want to have to re-write. 

The last reason this challenge was more challenging is that is just flatly had way more people participating.  I simply could not keep up with all the commenting on the sites that I wanted to keep up with.  I came out of the first challenge in April with about a half-dozen new friends with whom I know for a fact I will have long-lasting relationships.  Then, all of a sudden, here were 200+ new people.  And they were great!  They all deserved lots of attention.  I felt like I needed another 5 or 6 hours in each day just to visit their blogs, comment, and try to build relationships.  To all of you who have not heard from me — I apologize.  It was not intentional.  And to my “old” friends — let’s please stay in touch. 

I have a couple of JV’s (joint ventures) still in the works from the April challenge, and who knows what will happen from this one!

Jeanette — Thank YOU from the bottom of my heart for putting this together.  Your reputation and credibility made it attractive for the cream of the crop to participate. 

Choose the Right Phone Setup for a Virtual Office

A Beach Office!

It’s possible to look and sound professional while working from a home office or a carefully designed virtual office.  It’s also necessary that you pay attention to the details to take care of business in a way that gives you credibility and leaves your clients with a feeling of confidence in you, your products and services, and your company.

Your phone setup is a key component to your home office success.  You cannot afford to ignore this important advice:

  1. You must not depend on your home phone number OR your cell phone as a main point of contact.  It should be clear why your home phone is not a good idea – even with caller ID, someone in your house may forget and answer it in a less-than-professional manner and if Murphy’s Law has any merit, it will happen when your potentially largest new client calls you.
  1. You might think that using your cell phone is the next best idea, but it’s not.

The reason?  Well, for one thing, you don’t want to be married to your cell phone, becoming a literal slave to it every time it rings.  If you choose to use your cell phone as a main point of contact with the outside world as a business owner, you’ll soon want to throw it in the nearest deep body of water.  Another point about cell phones is that the voicemail is clumsy and annoying on most large carriers.  At the end, it gives enough options to make the most patient person let out with a big scream of “Enough already! Just let me leave the doggone message.”  Another issue I’ve run into here is that some cell phone carriers are notoriously late delivering messages, some arriving as long as 24-48 hours after having been left.  That’s bad for business.

So, what’s the answer?  For starters, I don’t recommend having another land-line from the local phone company installed.  It’s a waste of money and it’s a dead-end form of communication.  Even with phone company voicemail, your options are extremely limited.

Here’s Your Answer:

What you really need is a local phone number from a third-party company specializing in virtual office setups.  If you want a toll-free number, you can add this and point the toll-free to your new local number that is assigned by your voicemail/virtual office company.  That’s what I do – I have a local Myrtle Beach phone number, and I have a toll-free number directed to the number.  I don’t give out the toll-free number unless I’m in the sales cycle for folks out of town.  Local people can call the local number, and people needing customer service can dial long distance.  After all, long distance is free on so many packages now these days that toll-free is becoming a thing of the past.  But, it still has a nice professional look to it, so it’s probably still a good idea.

With this virtual office phone number, you can then do anything you want.  You can set up a menu that will make your company look larger.  For instance, Press 1 for Sales, 2 for Customer Service and 3 for Accounting.  Each of these selections can then route the call to a cell phone or your home phone (as long as you answer accordingly) and when those numbers aren’t answered, the system can bring the call back and take a message before it rolls into cell phone or home phone voicemail.  Or, you can send all calls into voicemail, and have the messages transcribed and emailed to you.

You can even give people a choice:  “If you would simply like to leave a message, press 1…if you would like to be connected to Joe’s current location, press 2 and hold.”  Then, music would play while the system tries to find you and patch the call through.

Without overloading you with details, let me just end by saying that the possibilities are endless and the service can also include eFax services.

I invite you to visit my website http://www.callintouch.com In Touch Solutions has all the services that I have described in this article.  If we don’t have what you need, we’ll help you find it.  For quicker information, just email me at jeanne@callintouch.com and ask me to call you.

We can provide local phone numbers anywhere in the continental United States.

What are you using now for your phone setup?