You Can Survive the Work Day on No Sleep (The Second Baby Version)

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I read through this original post today and couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Don’t get me wrong, when she was tiny, baby girl #1 woke up just as much as any other newborn. But then she stopped… completely. Her worst nights after about four months of age meant one or two wake-ups at most. Baby girl #2? She scoffs at any type of predictable wake-up schedule.

So what would I change about this post now that I REALLY know what sleep deprivation is like? A couple things…

Bright lights help.

Seriously, anytime you have to sit still, access as much natural light and/or bright light as possible. It will trick your brain into wanting to be awake, no matter how physically tired you are.

Again, do not sleep in.

I know it seems crazy, but I actually find that I need more time to wake up in the morning when I’ve had a rough night’s sleep. Getting up 30 minutes earlier means I get to sit with a cup of coffee before I try to think or make any decisions. Your brain isn’t firing on all cylinders when you get less than five hours of sleep (it’s the same as being drunk), so don’t try to make it work hard before it has a chance to wake up.

Fit in a laugh or a supportive pep talk.

Spy agencies use sleep deprivation as a torture tactic for a reason. It can really mess with you. It is best to acknowledge this and address it head on. Plan some fun in your day, whether that means fitting in 15 minutes of Family Guy while you eat dinner or calling a funny friend from the car while you commute. Keep your spirits up and your entire day will go more smoothly.

Otherwise, I think the standard advice applies. Check out my original post about surviving the work day on no sleep and share your thoughts below!

 

Not Everyone Wants My Business

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We know that the retail industry is changing rapidly. Leaders like Amazon, Target, Nordstrom, and a handful of others are changing what consumers expect from their shopping experience.

I look at it this way. As a marketer, I know that not every business should target every customer. If you try to please everyone, you please no one. So if a business isn’t making it easy for me to buy, then I must not be their target customer and they must not want my business.

Remember the old Jeff Foxworthy line, “You might be a redneck if…”?  A similar line works well in this context.

You don’t want my business if…

You want to charge me $100 to ship $75 worth of merchandise – all of which is already in a box (i.e. not art or furniture). At least offer a “ship to store” option.

You want to sell me a truly beautiful, high quality rug in the four or five figure range… but have no way of sending a fabric or dye sample so that I can check to see if it will match the other fabrics in my room. The only option is to order the rug and hope it works, or pay a FOUR FIGURE restocking fee if it needs to be returned. (NOTE: I realize this is probably an industry standard. Fine. I am not your target customer.)

You take me through a detailed sales process with lots of one-on-one attention… and then ignore me when I inquire about why my deliveries are MIA, months off of the timeline you promised.

(This is my personal favorite)
You sell me a dispenser that takes refills… and then you stop selling the refills at our local store. You also take them off of your website, but you tell me that I am welcome to call a customer service representative who can tell me which stores across the nation still have the refills… and then I can call those stores and ask them to ship me the refills I want, if they still have them in stock.

This occurred just one year after I bought said dispenser. It blows my mind. Fine, discontinue the refills after a year – it happens and I understand that risk. But to put all of the work of tracking down your available stock back into the customer’s hands blows my mind. Seriously – there are at least four other ways you could have handled this situation that would not have left such a nasty taste in my mouth. I haven’t set foot in the store since and I make fun of them all the time.

I would love to hear your stories!  Share on our Facebook page or on Twitter. #YouDontWantMyBusiness

Sitting Balls Down and Picking Them Back Up

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So I’ve started to write this blog post about five times. Each time it sounded like I was making excuses for letting the blog go dormant over the last year. Instead let me say this –

Sometimes balls drop and sometimes we have to sit them down for a while.

In late 2015, I was blessed in two ways. First, after some hard work and lots of networking, my pipeline of freelance projects filled to capacity. I was happily busy and employed for many months. It felt great to see my efforts pay off and to expand my client relationships.

Second, my husband and I found out we were pregnant with baby girl #2. We were beyond thrilled with the news… which is a good thing, because it made the HORRIBLE morning sickness a little easier to bear. Unfortunately, my morning sickness lasts a lot longer than the morning and it turns me into an exhausted, cranky, sick nightmare.

Because of our two blessings, I had to take a hard look at my to-do list and decide which balls I was going to keep up in the air, which balls could be thrown away, and which balls I needed to temporarily sit down. I chose to sit the blog ball down for a while, until I could pick it up again with confidence.

Now that our feisty baby girl #2 is here and crawling (yikes!), and my professional life is once again chugging along nicely, I am excited to revisit The Stay Engaged Project. I am not able to commit to multiple weekly postings as I once was, but to steal a hash tag from a good friend, #progressnotperfection will be my motto.

Any burning questions or topics that you would like me to address? Updates on the world to share? Leave a comment or speak up on our Facebook page!

Thanks for reading – feels good to be back 🙂

Why I Stopped Selling SEO Services and You Should, Too [Moz Blog]

Hello all – Apologies for the gap in posts.  I have been simultaneously under the weather and swamped with new projects.  Not a problem that I will ever complain about.  While I work to catch up, I still want share some great content with you.  Today’s find is from the Moz Blog.  If you haven’t discovered them yet, keep reading and follow the link to see what you have been missing.

It’s no longer just about optimizing your website for Google. It’s about optimizing your presence across the web. SEO has tentacles that extend well beyond your website, so it’s important that you begin to think of search holistically, taking into account all of the areas that can be optimized.

Source: Why I Stopped Selling SEO Services and You Should, Too

Practical Advice for Dealing with Workplace Stress (Finally!)

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Earlier this month HBR.org posted an article entitled Helping a Coworker Who’s Stressed Out. I printed it out (cause I’m old school like that) and ended up highlighting and making notes in almost every paragraph. THANK YOU Liane Davey for writing practical advice for something we all deal with each day! In today’s post I’m going to add my thoughts to some of her key points, but I encourage you to read her full article – it is worth your time.

According to Davey’s post, stress in the workplace is a “significant issue” for almost 50% of people in office jobs. And the truth of the matter is, no matter how many yoga classes you take or how carefully you plan your relaxing morning commute, stress can be contagious. If the person sitting next to you is seconds away from having a breakdown, there is a good chance that some of that will affect you. Why? Davey explains that our brains are essentially wired to pick up on the emotional states of those around us. Being cognizant of which stress is “yours” and which stress might be coming from others can be very useful.

Davey recommends a three-step approach for helping a stressed out coworker, and then three steps for addressing that person’s specific stressor. Let’s start with her approach:

  1. Reduce isolation by listening and being empathetic. Ask your coworker how things are going and then listen to their answer! This sounds so obvious, but Davey makes a great point that if you don’t start here, all of your other efforts will come across as judgmental or condescending. The conversation will start to help your coworker right away. First, it will help them to voice their concerns out loud to someone who cares about them – that active listening will help them to feel more cared for and supported. Second, they will become more aware of their own emotional state. They might not have realized the stressed vibes they were giving off and just having a conversation might spur them to take action, calm down, and develop a plan.
  1. Help your coworker to identify the root cause of the stress. Just saying, “I’m stressed about this project” is not enough. What is it about the project that is stressful? Do you have to complete too much work too quickly? Are you unsure of how to successfully complete the project? Or is there an interpersonal conflict between teammates? There could be other stressors, but as you can see, each root cause requires a very different solution.
  1. Suggest tactics for minimizing the impact of the stressor (I’d call this “make a plan”). Davey recommends a three step process for making a plan: help your coworker frame the situation more constructively; break it into manageable chunks; and then visualize next steps. I love everything about this approach. I don’t know about you, but if one more person suggests meditation as a one-size-fits-all solution to all forms of workplace stress, I might have to punch them right off of their floor cushion. Mindful practices are great, but if a project is stressing you out then you need to figure out what is causing that stress and then make a plan for dealing with it. Otherwise the stress will keep coming back again and again.

Davey then takes us through some possible tactics for addressing common root stressors.

Too much to do. I have found that when I lead teams of people who have multiple projects on their plate, this is a common issue that we have to manage. First, I start by asking for a quick run down of everything on their plate. This accomplishes two things – it forces the other person to be organized enough to know everything on their place, and it gives me a chance to identify specific areas where I might be able to help. Then comes the magic word – Prioritize. Make a list, people! You can only work on one thing at a time. That means you have to know what that one thing should be. You can also only delegate tasks that you identify in advance. Where can someone help you out? So often, just the process of cleaning up your to-do list, prioritizing top tasks, and figuring out where you can get help, will lift a lot of weight from your coworker’s shoulders.

Uncertainty about how to succeed. This is usually my #1 stressor, and I’ve noticed it in a few of my colleagues as well. I know how to organize and prioritize, but if I can’t figure out how to make a boss, client, or other person of authority happy I will pretty much make myself sick. When helping a coworker with this issue, Davey recommends encouraging them to think back to past projects that were similar, if not exactly the same, then outlining the steps required to complete the project. She also recommends making a list of people who might have experience or expertise that would help. I like both approaches because they are concrete, they use the resources that you already have, and they encourage you to get help in advance, rather than charging ahead and making yourself more of a stress ball.

Interpersonal conflict. For many people this is the toughest stressor because it is the one you may have the least control over. Davey reminds us to keep some distance from the issue. Your goal is to help your coworker to reframe the situation so that it isn’t as stressful and to identify the next steps, if necessary. I like that she points out that too often we take things personally when they are not, and an independent third party can help us to clarify those situations.

Above all, actively listening to your stressed out coworker goes a long way. As does grabbing them a snack when you make the afternoon Starbucks run. And sending them a funny video at the end of the day. We are all in it together. By helping a coworker with his or her stress, you will be helping to improve your own life as well.

Starting Strong with StartingPoint Realty [Interview]

Full disclosure: Ryan Gable helped my husband and I to buy our first home last year. His crystal clear niche marketing strategy is a big part of why we selected StartingPoint Realty over others in the marketplace. We figured if he was smart enough to target his potential clients with such clarity, then he was probably smart enough to help us find our dream home. We were right.

The one thing that this profile does not emphasis enough is Ryan’s people skills. There are many testimonials on the StartingPoint Realty website, but this one sums it up the best:

“Ryan is really a psychotherapist who doubles as a Realtor – kind of like a super hero.”

So true. His entire company’s enthusiasm is infectious.


Introducing Ryan Gable

Ryan Gable is the Managing Broker and CEO of StartingPoint Realty. After beginning his career in sales and sales management, Ryan launched his company in 2004… with zero real estate experience. Since that time, he has grown StartingPoint Realty into a successful venture with multiple offices – defining and owning the “first-time buyer” niche in the Chicago area.

 

What do you do?

StartingPoint Realty is a unique firm in the real estate agency industry because we primarily deal with the first time homebuyer market. Our mission and passion is to educate and inspire those who contact us looking for help with buying their first home. In 2014, 95% of our transactions involved a first time homebuyer – that percentage is the highest in the country. We have 15 agents and we operate two offices; Schaumburg, IL and Roscoe Village in Chicago, IL. Our Chicago office is actually set up as a homebuyer resource center with information, collateral, and available staff to assist and inform potential homebuyers. Not all of those who receive information from us utilize us as an agent, but it’s not about the commission with us, it’s about making a positive impact in the first time homebuyer journey.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

When I started the company 11 years ago, I was on my own with no real estate experience. I had this crazy idea to focus solely on first time homebuyers. Many thought I was nuts. But I’m proud of the agents that we’ve brought on board to work at StartingPoint Realty. When you start a company with a niche that’s never been been done before, you’re operating on faith. I am most proud of the talented people who are dedicated to serving the purpose of our company.

How do you stay on top of things day-to-day?

Real estate is a constant wave. It’s up or down, rarely steady. We do have an office assistant and we utilize a Virtual Assistance / Marketing company (realsupportinc.com) and they are great. RealSupport helps us with marketing, administrative, social media – I pay them on an as needed basis so when we’re busy, we lean on them quite a bit. When it’s slower, we can pull back. This works better for us as opposed to operating and maintaining a full in-house staff. We also utilize a robust CRM system that helps us keep track of past, current, and future clients. When used on a daily basis, this system truly helps our agents generate more business and operate more efficiently.

How do you keep your eye on the big picture?

Written goals, objectives, tactics and time blocking. We started utilizing time blocking this year and the impact has been huge. As agents, we get so bogged down with client work between March and August, you have to make time to look at your overall strategy for the year. For me, it’s in the next 36 months. I time block one hour a week specifically to look at our long-term strategy. I am a visual person, so if I start to focus on a big goal, I usually get there. But I need to focus on it every week, not once a quarter.

On your worst day in the office, how do you put things in perspective?

First, I put on some Van Morrison. Astral Weeks is a great record to get my mind off of anything. A whole different landscape will surround me in a matter of seconds. Then I read our testimonials. We have quite a few on Yelp and archived on our website. The reviews are heartfelt messages and when I go back and read a few, I’m reminded of our mission and commitment to this group of people.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting out in your career path, what would it be?

For those starting a company (or working independently), there are three key steps that are so important and yet so cliché: find your passion, identify the need, and then commit to the work. I always keep it simple because I don’t see these three elements enough in the marketplace, except from the top performers.

I have a lot of friends and colleagues that quit their job and they talk about finding another job or starting a small business. I always ask, ‘what are you passionate about?’ or ‘what would you do if making money was not the main concern?’ and I’m always surprised by the answer of ‘I don’t know.’ In the real world, you need to make money…but start with your passion and your skill set.

Then you need to understand that working on your own is 110% hustle and that means 12 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week. At least in the beginning. I read a quote that the small business owner works 70 hours a week so they can avoid the 40-hour, 9-5 downtown job. There’s some accuracy in that statement, but I find a lot of people THINK they work 70 hours a week when they go into business for themselves, but they really don’t. Sometimes not even close and that’s why they fail. Hold yourself accountable and if you won’t, find someone who will (a coach, colleague, etc.).

What is your best networking tip or trick?

Very simple: Do it and commit to doing it once a month. There are so many fancy networking tactics, but most don’t commit to showing up. Show up and be yourself.

How do you stay engaged with your work?

I know the question is ‘How’, but for me the ‘How’ stems from ‘Why do I stay engaged’. I’m engaged with my work because I believe in what my company is doing. We are changing people’s lives and our client’s sense of accomplishment at a closing is priceless. We have the client experience down, it’s now a matter of growing the company and that keeps me engaged everyday.


To learn more about StartingPoint Realty, please visit www.startingpointrealty.com, follow them on Twitter, or find them on Facebook.

Five Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals Before the End of 2015

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That’s right, I am already starting to think about the end of the year. A little terrifying, isn’t it? Pumpkin Spice Latte’s have just made their triumphant return and I’m already moving past Peppermint Mocha season. But in all seriousness, you know you started the year with some goals in mind, and you also know that it will feel great to accomplish them before 2015 comes to a close. In order to do that, we need to prepare now.

Normally, I would start this list of tips with “revisit your New Year’s Resolutions.” Today I’m not going to. I wrote my New Year’s Resolutions nine months ago. In order to make the most out of the end 2015, we need to address our priorities as they stand now.

  1. Get clear on your top priorities between now and the end of the year. That might mean addressing your new years resolution, or that might be shifting your focus to something entirely different. The important thing is to identify the tasks/goals/achievements that are most important to you right NOW.
  1. Make an “if everything goes perfectly” list of what you would ideally like to accomplish for each priority. This does not need to be elaborate, but it will help you get even more clear about your goals. If you had five extra hours in each day, plenty of sleep, and someone else to do your housework, how would you work on your priorities between now and December 31st?
  1. Then make a “this is real life” list of the tasks you can actually accomplish – because, of course, we don’t have five extra hours in each day or brain capacity to address eight different priorities. Personally, when I get to this stage, I try to stay really conservative to keep myself from listing more than what I can successfully finish. The idea here is to narrow your to-dos down to the most important items that you can realistically finish before the end of the year and feel accomplished. Feel free to have a “B” list of items to work on after you finish your “A” list. But I really encourage you to keep your “A” list short and as feasible as possible.
  1. Look at your calendar and get out your pencil. Go ahead and block off the time you need to work on your goals. For some people, it may be easiest to work backwards from December 31st. For others, it might just mean blocking off a few hours each week where your “day job” won’t get in the way.
  1. Finally, take a few minutes to think about how good it will feel to be DONE. Yes, this is cheesy, but I’m not suggesting that you do a full dream board or anything (unless that is your thing). Just take five minutes to think about how you will feel on January 1st, having accomplished what you set out to accomplish. Maybe you’ll feel like a different person. Maybe you’ll feel more confident. Maybe you’ll feel lighter, as if a weight has been lifted. It is worth taking a few minutes to think about it.

Need some more inspiration? Get the Gloss did a great piece on accomplishing goals that goes beyond the usual tips: 10 Steps for Achieving Life Goal Success Before the End of the Year

Enjoy Pumpkin Spice Latte season because Peppermint Mochas will be upon us all too quickly.