All posts by Cindy Goodman

Time Management tips for better work life balance

I started my day by looking at my calendar, rather than my Inbox. It definitely helps to know what you should be spending your time doing.  I shared more tips in my Miami Herald Balancing Act column today. After reading it, let me know if you have any time mangement tips that have helped you better manage your work day.

Too_busyIf I asked a random group of American workers how they felt coming out of 2009, I’m pretty sure what they would say — exhausted. So how do we shake that feeling in 2010?

We manage our time better.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are or whether you have an iPhone in a multitasking world. If you can’t organize your day to handle information and get things done, you will burn yourself out trying to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Changing habits isn’t easy. It will require you to spend energy upfront and avoid the biggest impediment to staying on top of work and life priorities: distractions.

I went to the experts to come up with some behavioral change techniques. Here are eight tips to make you better at managing your work day:

 Schedule a 2 p.m. check-in. Most people wait until the end of the day to tally what they’ve checked off their to-do list. A mid-afternoon review allows you to know what needs to get done before 5 p.m. and you need to extend your workday. It also allows you to manage the expectations of others. If you make a goal of leaving work on time at least two days a week, a 2 p.m. check in should help you make this a reality. You may want to set a reminder alarm.

 Organize your to-do list every day. Some people prefer to make a task list before bedtime at night; some prefer to do it early each morning. The list should include manageable items that can be completed, such as “prepare exhibits for monthly report,” rather than just “work on report.”

Don’t set yourself up for failure with an unrealistically long list. You may need to rewrite a task on the next day’s list until it gets done.

 Make a not-to-do list. “Every individual gets into a habit that at the time it was created made sense but since has outlived its usefulness,” says Noah Blumenthal author of Be The Hero: Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life. For some, that habit may be reading e-mail exchanges you no longer need to be part of, checking Facebook at the start of every morning, listening to a co-worker whine or stopping for a cup of coffee.

Blumenthal says his “not to do list” eliminates time spent reading articles on ESPN.com. “I can check scores, but I don’t need to read the articles.”

 Live in your calendar. People spend their entire days tethered to their in-boxes and lose sight of what they are supposed to be doing, says Dan Markovitz, president of the productivity consulting firm TimeBack Management.

“If you keep your calendar front and center, you will know what you should be doing,” he says. Markovitz recommends changing the setting of your software program so the calendar opens first rather than your e-mail in-box.

“The first thing you need to see is what you are supposed to do today instead of everything from everyone who needs a piece of you.” When your calendar is visible, it gives you the opportunity to make smart decisions.

 Organize your day. When you block off time on your calendar for major events, don’t jam your day full of activities. Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, says many people underestimate the time it takes to get tasks done and the number of unexpected events each day.

If a problem arises that doesn’t need to be handled by that evening, she recommends suggesting to your boss or client that you take it up the next day when everyone is fresh. “Use your interpersonal skills to help them see the benefit.”

 Check e-mail on a schedule. Most workers waste time answering every e-mail or text message as it arrives. Even worse, they respond without fully thinking through their response. Create a schedule and fall into a routine for checking your in-box. “Spending your day responding to e-mail is not a substitute for sitting and working. E-mail is not most people’s job,” says Markovitz.

To keep up with e-mail, organize it in file folders. If the message needs more thought, move it to your to-do list. If you want to acknowledge receipt, respond with “got it.” If it’s for reference, print it out. If it’s a meeting, move it to your calendar.

 Know your purpose. Before you make a phone call or go into a meeting, know what you want to accomplish. “A lot of people walk out of meetings feeling exhausted because the meeting didn’t start with a clear plan for what had to be achieved,” says Stuart R. Levine, business consultant and author of Cut to the Chase.

He also recommends identifying the most important thing you want to get done each day, and doing it first. Levine comes to his office early and writes three priorities on a Post-It note. He tackles them before reading e-mail, answering calls or welcoming visitors into his office.

 Use time management tools. Software such as Outlook lets you schedule events easily and can be set to remind you of appointments in advance. Business coach Pat Morgan puts everything in her Outlook — whether it’s writing a thank you note, attending a meeting or making a phone call. If she can’t get to the task, she will reschedule it on her Outlook calendar.

“I take care of things because I don’t want to see a reminder pop up again.”

Moms are building mini-empires online

 

Tech-savvy women are building huge followings with their online businesses, redefining what it means to be working moms.

I recently sat in awe in a room full of women — most of them moms — who are powerful influencers reaching giant audiences. They are doing that through a variety of social media platforms and creating small media empires — from their homes.

Through Internet postings, vocal opinions and business acumen, these tech-savvy women have amassed millions of online followers and captured the attention of the big brands. They are doing it on their own schedules — in between scout meetings and soccer games — and redefining what it means to be working moms.

“These moms have actually made it acceptable to run businesses out of the home,” said Maria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media and founder of the SheStreams conference I attended in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

As I listened to the women talk about their successes, I realized an evolution has occurred. A decade ago, the first phase of mom businesses began rolling out. Moms were starting Internet sites and blogs to stay connected to civilization as they dealt with diapers, temper tantrums, potty training and teething.

“The assumption was they were running little businesses from their bedrooms,” Bailey says. But these pioneers found an audience among other mothers, a powerful demographic coveted by big consumer companies. Now these moms are running half-million dollar businesses out of their home and that’s acceptable, even professional, Bailey says.

Today’s home-based business owners are podcasting, vlogging, marketing through Facebook, holding Twitter parties, pinning on Pinterest, creating YouTube channels, publishing newsletters and reaching across the digital sphere. They have used social media and their relationship-building skills to catapult their careers to the next level. Brands like Disney, Hewlett Packard and Ford have taken notice.

“These moms are cyber celebrities selling their identities and endorsements,” says Bailey, who personally connects with more than 8 million parents a month through her podcasts, radio show and websites. “They give advertisers the ability to reach moms through multiple channels.”

Take Abbie Schiller, CEO and founder of The Mother Company, for example. Four years ago, she left her high-paying job in media relations at ABC News in Los Angeles to start her online parenting company. She actually funded the company with a mission — “helping parents raise good people” — by reaching out to 22 parents who she convinced to make an investment. Today, The Mother Company (www.themotherco.com) operates a parenting website and sells a line of children’s products that includes books, shows (on DVD and download), dolls and apps. It reaches hundreds of thousands of mothers a month and has products in Whole Foods.

“Our investors saw the opportunity in creating media opportunities for parents and children. That’s not something a corporation can do well. It’s something a mom can do well,” Schiller says. “Now we have companies clamoring to see how they can be involved in what we’re doing.” In only two years, The Mother Company has attracted Fortune 500 sponsors and advertisers including The Gap and Johnson & Johnson. Schiller plans to expand further by offering an interactive digital platform for children.

As social media explodes, these early adopters with legions of fans see the wave as an opportunity to not just hop on and ride, but to lead.

When Teana McDonald of Margate, Fla., became a mom, she began making adorable hair accessories for her young daughter. Soon after, she decided to start My Little Diva Accessories from her home, and later expanding into showrooms. To attract more customers, she created a Facebook page and became active on Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Within a few months, she had engaged thousands of other mothers online, and her audience still continues to grow. She’s about to launch an online TV show, 3 Loud Women, too.

“People buy from people they like, moms especially,” McDonald says. However, she says building an online brand has become competitive as more mothers have discovered the opportunities. “They’re realizing it’s a big bubble that’s not going to burst.”

Recently, McDonald began talking about her online success with other women business owners and that led to her new business, Get It Done Divas, as a social media marketing specialist. Her most common advice: “You have to figure out what platforms are good for your business.”

Cristy Clavijo-Kish says the same phenomenon is sweeping through the Hispanic community of online moms. Not only does Clavijo-Kish run her own bilingual blog and resource site for multicultural parents of tweens, called Los Tweens, she also co-founded Latina Mom Bloggers. Latina Mom Bloggers is the go-to place for Hispanic online moms to learn new ways to leverage social media presence and partner with top brands for social media campaigns, product reviews, ambassador programs and advertising. Even more, Clavijo-Kish sits on the management team of Hispanicize.com, which offers services to social media marketers and bloggers.

“Latina moms are learning, from mainstream moms,” Clavijo-Kish says. They are choosing niches for which they have a passion, using conferences for learning opportunities and figuring out how to find sponsorships and advertisers. “They are starting to make money.”

Linda Carmona-Sanchez says she finally realized what these savvy online moms have figured out — anyone who wants the business of young parents must embrace the web. Last week, Carmona-Sanchez attended a Google sponsored workshop in Miami to create a website for her alliance of child-care providers (childcareflorida.org). She plans to take what she learned at the workshop and help day care operators build their websites. “The belief has been the best advertising is word of mouth,” Carmona-Sanchez said. “Not anymore. Parents will talk to each other, but they are more tech savvy and will also look you up online.”

As moms begin to see financial payoffs for online efforts, they’re starting to understand the tradeoffs. While they have flexibility and time with their kids, most say they work late into the night and through weekends. Bailey says 80 percent of mom moguls work online regularly from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. The sacrifice, typically, is time to sleep and time spent with their spouse.

“Having ongoing, good content takes work,” says Clavijo-Kish. “Sometimes though, I just have to learn to walk away.”

MiamiHerald.com: Cindy Krischer Goodman