Simple Tips to Better Manage Your Calendar & Meetings

A few years ago, I found myself running ragged as a Wedding Planner.  I was spending the majority of my time driving from meeting to meeting, with little time spent in the office.  Even though I was batching the majority of my meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was still spending WAY too much time in meetings.  This was a problem for a few reasons – 1) I was burning out from driving all over the place – not to mention it was expensive 2) I was working late nights and early mornings on client work since I was spending the majority of my time in meetings out of the office 3) I didn’t have a strategy for my calendar and meetings.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Here’s what I decided to do – I printed off the previous calendar month and highlighted all of the meetings that were NOT focused on generating revenue.  I was shocked – about 50% of my meetings were being spent with appointments that ultimately were “non-revenue generating” meetings.  What is an example of this type of meeting?  One of many examples – I met with a local magazine that I knew I wouldn’t advertise with as they weren’t a match for my brand, but thought it would be good for them at least to know who I am and I liked the sales rep.  What’s the problem with this?  I didn’t have 2 hours in that week to meet with someone who I had decided wasn’t going to help bring me sales, at the end of the day.  Yes, it was fun to meet her and good for the magazine to know who I am, but really not the best use of my time.  I easily should have said NO to that meeting. So, what’s an example of a “revenue generating” meeting?  This would be a case where I met with a new venue in town where I KNOW our target clients are going to be booking at, and talked with them about how we could partner together.  This type of meeting has the potential for sales down the road.  And guess what…that relationship I’ve established worked, and we’re sending referrals to each other now, we’re on their preferred vendor list, etc. Before you schedule ANY appointment, simply ask yourself the question – does this meeting have the potential to bring me sales or help my business in some way?  If not, you probably need to politely decline the meeting offer and spend your time focusing ON your business, your clients, and your work-life balance.  Once you better manage your calendar from this strategic perspective, it is incredibly FREEING and SMART because you’re spending your time focused on what’s most important for your business and your sanity.  Grab your highlighter and take a look at your calendar to see where you can improve!

How Many Payments to Ask of Your Clients

CashInflowIs it better to ask for 2 payments from a client? Or, 4 payments?

Typically, wedding pros make this decision based on what they can manage in their workflow. (Asking for payment becomes a nightmare to people who don’t always have simple systems in place.) But – the real question is: what is the impact on your cash flow? If you have cash coming in year round, then it doesn’t matter. But, if you have a slow part of your season, you’ll want to specifically ask for a payment during that slow season.

Here’s an example:

July and August is slow for weddings in hot hot hot Texas. I would recommend that business owners in Texas have 3-payment plans: ask for a retainer/deposit when they book their client, a second payment due July 1st, and a 3rd payment due 2-4 weeks before the wedding.

By scheduling your 2nd payment to occur during slow times you’ll ensure that you have money coming in during an otherwise slow time. There is nothing that says your payments need to follow structured windows of time. WORK your cash flow to YOUR favor. Payments could be set up as such:

A Seattle business that asks for payments on December 1st (slow), February 2nd (slow), and June 1st.
A Florida business that asks for payments on April 1st, July 1st (slow), and September 1st.
A DC business that asks for payments on January 1st (slow), May 1st, and July 1st (slow).

Naturally, you can make exceptions if a client wants to break out the payments into more payments. I’m always a fan of working with the clients’ needs to streamline their cash flow too. They’re likely to book you if you can be flexible with payment plans.

Payments from clients are less a function of your operations and more a function of your finances. When will you need the money? Ask the client for it then.

Need help with your cash flow? Talk to me: michelle@sageweddingpros.com .

 

EASY-PEASY To-Do List Pads Available for Sale

psssstttt…. we’ve got some cool to-do lists available that’ll help you prioritize your daily tasks! EXCITING! But, first I wanna explain the method to my daily madness in hopes that it helps you too…

I have a really simple method for managing my daily tasks and prioritizing. (Folks – it’s ALL about prioritizing!) Here is how I manage my day to day work:

1.) I have a humongous “MASTER” list for 1000s of to-dos. These to-dos are sometimes organized into categories: now, this week, this month, later. And, sometimes (if it’s CRAZY TIME) they may be a massive jumbo of millions of ideas in several notebooks. Here’s the important thing: this MASTER list is NOT where the action happens. It’s just where I capture all my thoughts. (This is the continuous “brain dump” if you follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done.”)

2.) Each day I pick 3-5 things I will work on. THAT’S IT! These are the things that HAVE to happen. (I make sure that I also include at least 1 long-term goal that is not as urgent. Working on something for 15 minutes a day can get me far in achieving a goal.)

3.) I start my day and spend the first 30-60 minutes working on something for myself or my business. Before answering emails and answering the phone, I WORK. (Remember actual work? Not just email answering and fire-snuffing.)

4.) At the end of the day, I spend 30 minutes organizing my thoughts, adding to my master list… and I select the 3-5 things I will work on the next day. I do this so that when I sit at my desk the next day, I have a roadmap and don’t fall to the crutch of my email.

Sure…  there are days that my list has 10 things that HAVE to happen. Sure… there are times that I jump on email first thing in the morning. But, I usually stick to this little system of prioritizing and it does wonders for my day. Give it a try! It’ll make a HUGE difference in how you work.

And now… drum roll… EASY-PEASY TO-DO LIST NOTEPADS!

What will you work on today? These little notepads will help you navigate your daily tasks. It asks you to choose 3 things you want to do for your client, 3 things you want to do for your business, 3 things you want to do for yourself (which includes your relationships). Use this notepad to guide you in your daily tasks. (I do recommend keeping a MASTER list elsewhere.)

The notepads are 50 sheets and cost $12 (includes shipping within the United States). Email me if you want me to ship outside of US.




 

Tell me how you like’m!

Are Your Checklists Impeding Your Productivity?

To the right is the checklist that my daughter Lili made for bed-time a couple weeks ago. She’s 5 years old and already type-A, organized, detailed. This is what I observed with this checklist thing…

  • Lili took FOREVER to make the checklist.
  • The checklist was a great DISTRACTION to actual getting the work done (brushing teeth, reading book, putting on pajamas).
  • Lili kept losing her FOCUS because she was so focused on the checklist.
  • Every time she finished a task, it’d take another several minutes to refer back to the list and check off a box. And, another several minutes to find her place again.

(Needless to say, the mom in me just wanted bedtime to come ALREADY!)

I reflected on how checklists can really get in the way of getting ACTUAL WORK DONE.  Does this happen to you? Are your lists and lists and lists (and the rewriting of lists and checking things off the lists) impeding your work?  You know – your job is not crossing things off lists. :)  (Tho, sometimes, it certainly seems that way.)

Listen… I’m a HUGE list maker. I LIVE off my lists. I would be lost without my lists. But, I don’t let my lists manage me. I manage my lists. And – I make sure they don’t get in the way of ACTUAL WORK.

Here’s what I do when I have a gazillion things going on and my lists are in danger of dominating me…

To the left is a picture of a massive pile of post-its. It’s mine. I posted it on Instagram and several people thought it was CRAZY TOWN. Ha! (It could be crazy town… if this was how I actually managed my tasks.) NOPE.

Each day I run off of a VERY short list of things that MUST get done that day. There are usually 3-7 things on this list. That’s all. (I have a few other master lists, but they are usually not in my workspace where they might distract me.)

So, what’s the pile of post-its for? 

Here’s the deal… There are days when my mind is moving 10000mph. I could spend those days sorting thru my thoughts. I could spend those days organizing checklists. I could spend those days NOT working but making checklists. But – nobody PAYS me to make checklists (at least not ones for myself.)

I use the post-its to write my floating thoughts down. I have a random thought. I put it on a post-its – QUICKLY. Move on. The post-its are something I come back to later. About once a week, I take all these floating thoughts and decide which ones are still important (add to a list) and which ones aren’t (trash).

It does’t have to be post-its… it could be a notebook, notepad, document on your computer, note on your phone. I use post-its because it’s the simplest system that doesn’t pull away my attention from the work at hand.

The minute that your  lists, or files, or notebooks, or systems are distracting you – or impeding ACTUAL WORK – is when you need to rethink how you are spending your time each day.

Have you found that your checklists ever block your productivity?  Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Spring Cleaning: 3 Steps for a Clean Computer Workspace

Today is the first day of spring (in the Northern hemisphere)… HURRAH!  So, how about a little spring cleaning?  When it comes to cleaning your office space, there are visual cues that move you to get organized.  Papers are piled up beyond control.  Wedding inventory, props, samples, books surround you everywhere.  You get to a point where you can’t handle the mess and you clean.  But, how about the stuff on your computer?  It’s a little easier to hide that mess and disorganization because it doesn’t invade your life in a physical sense.  The virtual clutter is hidden.

Wallpaper Credit: kellyashworth.com

How clean is your computer and all your computer files?

Today, I’m going share…

3 Steps for a Clean Computer Workspace

1.  Get all the loose folders, files, and documents into one place.

The ‘virtual paper’ can get out of control just as it does in real life.  (Piles of papers and folders on our desk.  Piles of papers and folders on our computer desktop.)  I ‘gather’ all of those ‘papers’ and dump them into a “CLEANUP” folder.  This folder will serve as my sorting/organizing folder (similar to an inbox.)  It’s so much easier to manage ‘piles’ of papers when they are all in one place and I can review each one of them piece by piece and decide where they go.

2.  Set up files and folders that make sense for your workflow.

Spend a few minutes thinking about your workflow.  What are the sorts of projects that you are typically working on?  Naturally, there are client projects and you’ll most likely have these sorted by client name (or something to that effect).  But, what about all the other non-client things you work on?  How you organize your folders will largely depend on how your head works and how you work.  Here are some suggestions for how to organize:

  • by area of responsibility (e.g. accounting, marketing, legal, PR, training, etc)
  • by project (branding, business planning, business strategy, contracts, website, etc.)
  • by stages of workflow (1- new inquiries, 2- outstanding proposals, 3- outstanding contracts, 4- clients – design phase, 5- clients – production phase, 6- clients done, etc.)

I like to organize my folders by area of responsibility (hybrid with projects) and then break sub-folders into years.  I like separating things into years because I hate dragging onto old files for years and years and years.  This allows me to junk old files (or save to CD).  I also do not like revisiting old files when I’m searching for something.  So if the 2008 files are out of my way, I can find the 2012 files quicker.  Some files/documents will get carried forward each year (or aren’t applicable to a specific year) – so I separate those out.  Here’s an example:

Wallpaper Credit: kellyashworth.com

3.  Start sorting the files in your “CLEANUP” folder.

Once you have folders set up, you can start the cleaning.  Open up the CLEANUP folder and go thru each file or folder and place them where they belong.  (You’ll probably find a lot of things you can just trash.)  You’ll probably notice you need to create some new folders for things that don’t necessarily have  place yet.  Go ahead and do so, but keep in mind what your original system is from #2 above.  (You want to make sure your folders have a rhyme and reason.)

The beauty of the CLEANUP folder is that if you don’t finish sorting thru all the files in one sitting, you can come back to it.  Cleaning up your computer can take some time.  Just commit yourself to going thru that folder 30 minutes a day.  Stick to your system (folders and files) and you’ll have a nice clean computer in no time!

What are your tips for cleaning you digital workspace?