Staying focused isn’t simple. Even when you have pressing deadlines and a to-do list in your planner, it’s easy to get sucked into social media or into a funny text exchange with your biz bestie. Heck, sometimes doing laundry seems more appealing than sitting down and actually working on your business. That’s why I love the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a simple way to force yourself to focus.
Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break work into intervals, separated by short breaks. Each interval is called a “pomodoro” (Italian for tomatoes) after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used when he developed the method during college.
Here’s how it works:
- Choose a task you want to accomplish.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Eliminate all distractions (that means turn off the phone and log off Facebook!).
- Work on the task nonstop until the timer goes off.
- Take a 5-minute break.
- After 4 intervals, take a 30-minute break.
Does it sound insanely simple? That’s because it is. Yet, it can really work.
Remember: Nothing is set in stone. You can adapt the Pomodoro Technique to better suit your style. The intervals can be longer or shorter than 25 minutes. The breaks can be longer or shorter than 5 minutes. You can do more or less than 4 intervals before taking a long break. Your long break can be as long as you like. You can do as many intervals as you want in a day. You can use the technique every day or just for certain tasks. You can do it for many days in a row and then not use it again for months.
Make it your own!
I don’t use the Pomodoro Technique all the time. When I do, though, I end up with far more checks on my to-do list. I tend to use it most when I have a big project that I’m dreading or just can’t seem to get motivated to start.
Also, I don’t like setting a timer—it feels too intrusive when it rings. Instead, I often use my vinyl record collection as a timer. One side of an album is usually about 22-minutes long. So, I drop the needle on an album that motivates me and then sit down to work without any other distraction. When the music stops, I get up to flip the album (and maybe use the restroom) as my break time.
Of course, no productivity hack works for 100% of people (here are some other ideas from 30 business owners if this one isn’t for you). You won’t know if the Pomodoro Technique suits your personality, however, until you give it a shot. If you do try it, or find variations that work particularly well, tell me about in the comments below!
It seems like every coach has a business membership community these days, right? I’m no exception, but I do happen to think my community is exceptional.
In fact, there’s nothing I’m more proud of having created than the Own it, Crush it VIP membership community. (Well, other than my amazing son, of course!)
It’s big talk, and I absolutely mean it.
Of course, I realize you don’t yet know how magical VIP is. I also know that investing in a membership is a big decision. You need to be certain it’s a space where you’ll feel comfortable and where you’ll get a good return on your investment.
The truth is, VIP isn’t for everyone. In this post, I want to help you really understand the membership so you can decide if it’s right for you. That’s why I want to do more than just tell you about VIP. I want to give you a sneak peek at what you really get.
This post offers a peek behind the curtain by giving a snapshot of everything that happens in the group within a specific month (January 2019).
Each month, the group has a specific theme (Focus, in this case). We read a related book together (“How to Get Sh*t Done” by Erin Falconer for Jan. 2019), participate in a monthly challenge together (here it’s creating & implementing block scheduling), and learn from a keynote presenter (CEO of Hello Boss Ashley Knight here). I also be share my best tips related to the theme.
Each month is also dotted with other fun, inspiring, and practical activities—co-working, mastermind hot seats, book club chat, and a virtual mixer.
Perhaps best of all, we kick off each month with a two-hour CEO Seat … it’s a structured group planning session where we map out your month so you know what you need to do each week to reach your goals. Every VIP member is assigned an accountability pod when they join, so they have a group of bosses invested in making sure they do what they said they would each month.
Everything happens live, but I know it’s not realistic for most members to fit everything into their busy schedules. That’s why the events are also recorded and made available right away for watching at your leisure.
The content lives on forever in the membership dashboard. Members can access everything at any time—grab the month’s schedule, challenge information, bonus resources from me, and all the videos.
Plus, members have access to an ever-growing library of masterclasses (there are more than 30 videos right now) from a bunch of smart guest lecturers. They cover general business tactics, social media tactics, mindset help, writing tips, and more.
What I can’t show so easily is the community. That’s something you have to experience to really understand. As soon as you join, you get access to the private Facebook and Slack groups where a lot of the real magic of VIP happens.
All I can do is tell you what others say about it, and hope you can feel the sincerity in what they are saying:
- “The supportive, caring, and brilliant women inside VIP are why I will continue to be a member for as long as I can” Ann Marie O’Braskin
- “OICI VIP is full of supportive, engaged, and encouraging people, who gladly share insights and tips to help one another grow their businesses.” Katie Wood
- “I have never belonged to a group where people are so willing to help one another just to simply be helpful. You actually feel how much people care about others in the group.” Jacqueline Julien
- “When you’re here and surrounded by so many other business women who have passion and drive it really makes the difference.” Nicole Amos
It’s a lot for only $75 a month (with no long-term commitment). I hope this gave you a good glimpse into what you’ll get and how you’ll feel when you join VIP.
If you want in, get on the wait list. Doors only open three times a year, and you don’t want to miss one of those opportunities (the next enrollment period is coming in early December 2018).
Having a small business is taxing, and not just on your pocketbook. If you’re like most small business owners, you can’t afford much help in the beginning. That leaves you to do much of the day-to-day work yourself. On top of that, you have to get the word out about your business. After all, the more people who know about you, the more revenue you’ll have and the better your chances of hiring some help.
It might feel like you’re chasing your tail, but don’t throw in the towel. Check out these four tips to boost your brand awareness without breaking the bank.
1. Social Media
Social media is an inexpensive way to build brand awareness. Ads allow you to target a specific location so people who live in that area will see it in their feeds. While putting money behind your ad campaign will help a lot, you don’t necessarily need to spend any money, and can instead grow your following organically.
Be sure to research your audience before you decide which social media platforms are right for your business. You don’t want to waste time using the wrong platforms, and you definitely don’t have time to try to use all of them.
Use social media to engage with customers and get to know them in addition to advertising for your business. Build a relationship with your customers instead of coming off as too self-promotional. Make sure your posts show the value customers will get. Use bold images with bright colors to stand out in people’s newsfeeds. Remember to respond to all customer questions, comments, and queries—even the negative ones—in a timely manner.
2. Direct Mail
Like social media ads, direct mail also lets you target a specific neighborhood. Unlike social media and email, though, direct mail typically gets noticed easier. Direct mail also has a longer shelf life than a digital ad because people tend to keep it to refer to later.
It’s important to make your mail stand out. Put it in a branded envelope using a script font to address it. People will be more likely to open it because it will look like a personal letter instead of an ad. To that end, use a real stamp instead of a bulk mail stamp. Use direct mail to introduce people to your brand by inviting them to check you out on social media, inviting them to an upcoming event, or giving them a coupon.
3. Community Service
Community service serves two purposes. First, it helps others. Second, it gets your name out there. The scale in which you want to serve the community is up to you, depending on your time and your budget.
One of the more elaborate ways is to organize some sort of area cleanup. It can be in the area of your business or somewhere in your neighborhood, such as a local park. A little less intensive method is to organize some sort of collection. You can accept canned food for local shelters or soup kitchens, pet food and supplies for animal shelters or backpacks and school supplies for area schools. The easiest way is through money. Accept donations and offer to match them up to a certain amount, or offer a portion of your proceeds during a designated time to charity. If you’d rather give time, you also can offer to sit on the board of a local charitable organization. Not only does this get your name out there, it also allows you the chance to network with other board members.
4. Mobile Billboard
Now it’s time to take your brand to the streets! You have to drive places anyway, so you might as well get some advertising in for your brand at the same time. Consider using your vehicle as a mobile billboard with custom window decals, magnets or wraps. You can choose a specific product based on your budget and what will work best with your particular vehicle.
This gives you the opportunity to reach everyone along your commute each day, as well as others when you’re out running errands; imagine all of those bumper stickers, vanity plates and window decals you observe in your daily travels. Plus, it will definitely get noticed during a traffic jam.
Be sure your vehicle design is consistent with all of your other marketing materials. Most importantly, make sure to be on your best driving behavior. You don’t want anyone to associate negative feelings with your brand because you cut them off in traffic.
Owning a small business is a lot of work. There’s more to it than opening a shop and making sure you have enough inventory. You have to get your name out there. But, as the saying goes, “you have to spend money to make money.” There are many ways to do that, but hopefully, these four tips will help you boost brand awareness without breaking the bank.
It’s never easy to do, but sometimes we business owners have to fire clients. There are a lot of reasons why it can happen, and none of them make the process any less difficult.
In my latest Mindset Minute for my YouTube channel, I’m sharing a few tips for identifying when it may be time to fire clients, as well as a few strategies for doing it right. It is possible to end the client relationship without burning a bridge.
To make sure you find out about my latest YouTube videos, subscribe to my channel!
Often times, we business owners approach advertising in an overly generalized manner. I want to share a few thoughts on marketing to your niche target in a more effective and deliberate fashion.
Niche Outside the Box
Start by building your target audience. The idea is to start general, but refine your audience as you narrow down who you’re seeking out.
Let’s say you’re a 27-year-old fashion consultant in a smaller metro area. Immediately, you may identify upper-class women aged 35-50 in the nearest larger metro. Next, identify more details about her like activities related to expendable income, like fitness classes at an elite health center. A woman who attends health facilities is obviously health conscious and may have a certain image she wants to project.
That’s the easy target. Now, how about identifying wild-cards targets—relatively outlandish ideas of who may benefit from your service. For example, that same fashion consultant might consider offering courses on professional attire at local businesses or the library. Even more adventurous? Speed dating events, where she could do a quick talk on what’s hot vs not on a first date and raffle off a free consultation. Ready for another? Travel agencies. Who doesn’t need a little help to rock the hottest fashions while on vacation? Give agents a free consult to prime the well, and leave cards with them so they can share with their clients.
I’m sure you see where I am going with this. The idea is to forget what you know about the typical target. If you already know who that is, move on to who else you could connect with.
Decrypt Digital Marketing
Now, let’s transition to the meat and potatoes of marketing—your digital footwork. I’d like to start with Facebook, which has maintained its footing even as new social media platforms come and go. Facebook, in my opinion, is the holy grail of marketing.
*Disclaimer: You should always focus on building relationships. Avoid posting spammy ads in groups and not participating. Seek out your target, but actually engage with them. Click, comment, like, and share. Create an impression and be memorable. Even if someone can’t personally use you, the relationship you build with them will allow them to think of you and make recommendations.
If you have a business page on Facebook (get one now if you don’t), post regularly and share the content on your profile as well. Encourage your family and friends to engage directly with the business page, not the shared post. Remember to encourage your friends and family to select “see first” when following your page.
Also, don’t be afraid to get personal and share real life stories. I love hearing from fellow mom bosses that their kids make them crazy. That I’m not the only one with a strange obsession with coffee. Your audience will also appreciate these things. It’s a deeper connection with immeasurable return on investment.
Another platform to have an active presence on is Instagram, which is an incredible resource for visual elements. It opens the door to networking with other professionals. Thanks to apps like “Textgram” you can create notes and share them on Instagram as an image.
Here’s where Instagram edges out Facebook—hashtags allow you to more easily put yourself in front of your targets’ eyes. If you’re a realtor trying to sell a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom townhouse, for example, you can post a collage of photos and use hashtags (#newlyweds #firsttime #homebuyer #starterhome #college, etc.) to get in front of your ideal client. Hashtags also help you search and connect with like-minded professionals or potential clients.
The important thing to remember is to explore and test all platforms to see what works for you and be creative. If there is no other takeaway, remember to be creative. Think about everything in terms of ripples in a pond. Now, go forth and kill niche marketing.
Paula Creed-Smith is the owner of Ceh~Flora Gift Co., a gift box company located in sunny Florida. She’s wife to her Italian fox, Sheldon, and mother of two divas in the making, Azzaryha and Lael. Paula was formerly involved in social work after being inspired by her time in foster care during her teens. Once Paula became a mother, she opened her first company, At Your Service Personal Concierge. After a few years, a family health crisis encouraged a pivot in her entrepreneurial plan and she launched Ceh~Flora. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging with her hubby, playing with her girls, eating sushi with her mom, and singing at her church. Paula admittedly has a deep affection for all things coffee related and rum raisin ice cream.
Today I’m doing something a little different on the blog. Why? Well, to be honest, I am swamped and didn’t have time to write an insightful, detailed how-to article this week. Also, next week is Valentine’s Day, so I figured why not celebrate the upcoming holiday here? (Is it really a holiday? Or is it more of an occasion? I digress.)
To get you in the mood, I’ve rounded up a handful of quotes from heavyweight entrepreneurs on love, passion, and even dating. I hope you find some humor, inspiration, and joy in this mix. And be sure to come back Thursday, when we return to our regular hard-hitting, deep-dive content to help you grow your business.
“The only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: ‘I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love.’ But it doesn’t work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.” —Warren Buffett
“You can’t convince someone else—whether it’s a potential employer, a loan officer at the car dealership, or someone you’ve been crushing on—that you’re amazing and terrific if you don’t actually think you are.” —Sophia Amoruso
[Tweet “”If you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret” Mary Kay Ash http://bit.ly/2jYTLiG”]
“We don’t have the luxury of time. We spend more because of how we live, but it’s important to be with our family and friends.” —Sara Blakely
[Tweet “”Life is too short for long-term grudges.” Elon Musk http://bit.ly/2jYTLiG”]
“No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?” —Lee Iacocca
“When men I have dated over the years whined about, ‘Oh, you make no time for me’ – see ya! I just dumped them. I don’t need that pressure in my life.” —Rachael Ray
[Tweet “”My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” Henry Ford http://bit.ly/2jYTLiG”]
“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.” —Steve Jobs
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” —Oprah Winfrey
BEFORE YOU GO: Are you ready to get serious about email marketing? Get some helpful hints for how to grow your list by downloading my free checklist.