Time Wasters

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 5, 2019. Our lives are congested under the best of circumstances. We’re constantly stressed to accomplish what’s on our plates. The last things we need are intrusions that waste our precious time or require… Read more »

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This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 5, 2019.

Our lives are congested under the best of circumstances. We’re constantly stressed to accomplish what’s on our plates. The last things we need are intrusions that waste our precious time or require us to take extra steps.

In our business lives, we too often encounter unintentional but thoughtless time wasters. It’s frustrating to be on the receiving end of this behavior, and all of us have a responsibility to respect the time of others. Hopefully, describing some of these might deter more of us from inadvertently burdening others. Talk to your employees and colleagues about setting norms that thwart time thieves and become productivity proponents.

Websites: Websites should always consider what people are searching for. Too many sites don’t have key information on their home page and require many clicks to find the basics. Many sites are not mobile friendly, so the functionality is limited for many users. Test your site with someone who knows nothing about your business and pay attention to their feedback.

Email: There are many ways for emails to be time sponges. Some are pointless or do not provide an easy way to respond succinctly. Re-reading your draft before hitting send will make sure you’ve provided clear and easy action steps. That improves chances the recipient will respond. If you’re referencing something in the email, make sure there’s an attachment or link. Always include your title and contact information in an email signature so recipients know exactly who you are and have an alternate way to reach you.

Telephone and Voicemail: Too often, callers launch into details without confirming they’ve reached the appropriate contact. State your purpose up front, then follow up with relevant details. How often have you had to repeatedly re-listen to voicemails to catch the name and number? It’s frustrating and inclines us to ignore the call. Speak clearly and pronounce your name and organization slowly. When leaving a phone number, say it slowly, and then repeat it. Then repeat your name and company.

Referrals: When you refer someone to another individual, it behooves you to make sure you’re doing both of them a favor. Too often people are just trying to get rid of a situation, but blind referrals can waste everyone’s time. Check first to clarify whether the matter is in their wheelhouse before you burden someone else with something that you cannot solve.

Events: We’ve all gotten stuck in an endless conversation without an escape. Don’t monopolize one person’s time at an event. Remember that event planning requires solid headcounts. Not RSVPing is rude and is an imposition when the planner must chase you down. With electronic RSVPs, there is no excuse for not responding.

Avoiding becoming a time waster requires us to be thoughtful and to take a little extra effort. Yes, we might have to invest a little of our own precious time, but making things flow smoothly is not only courteous, it improves communications and responses. It also enhances our standing among colleagues and potential customers.

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It is Time to Get Organized!

The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer… Read more »

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The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer may well lie in the need to be better organized. Participants in the July Small Business Roundtable examined the ways that they could better organize their time to be more productive. Roundtable facilitator Ray Sidney-Smith recommended a great book on the subject, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Checklist Image

The first step is to define whether something is a “project” or a “task”. A project is generally a main event – something big that needs to get done. It may even be broken down into related mini-projects. Tasks are the steps that need to be done in order to complete the project. A task is any physical action taken that moves a project forward. Most people find that creating “task lists” really helps. When composing your task list make sure to use strong verbs – action items for you to accomplish. Keep the task list close at hand, whether on paper or digitally, and cross off items as they are accomplished. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks, divide them by theme, such as all marketing tasks together, accounting together, etc.

Time management is equally important when it comes to managing your professional projects and tasks. Use time blocking to allow a certain period of time when you only concentrate on the tasks within a theme, essentially wearing only one of your many entrepreneurial “hats” at a time. It is important to track your time, whether productive or non-productive, regardless of how you charge your time to a client. When tracking you may find that you overcharge for some tasks or projects, and undercharge for others. Either way it is good to know where you spend your time, which naturally modifies productive habits.

You may also find that there are some tasks involved in a project that you absolutely hate doing, and that you realize do not have to be done by you. It’s time to outsource them, whether to a virtual assistant, an employee, or another company. The time you save by outsourcing some of your tasks can then be put to use on those parts of the project that are best handled by you – without the other tasks weighing on your mind while you are working on the “important “ things. You may find that projects can be accomplished sooner and with less stress on your part – a win-win. Suddenly you have time to develop new business, take a mini-vacation, or just breathe. The last four months of the year may be your most productive yet!

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Defining Goals and Values Can Reduce Workplace Stress

The January Small Business Roundtable discussion topic was advertised as “Ideas for a Healthier, Happier Workplace”. While several concepts were raised, most of the discussion centered on reducing stress. Small business owners wear so many different hats and are pulled in so many directions that the concept of “stress-free productivity” may seem unreachable. Pulling back… Read more »

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Defining Goals and Values Can Reduce Workplace StressThe January Small Business Roundtable discussion topic was advertised as “Ideas for a Healthier, Happier Workplace”. While several concepts were raised, most of the discussion centered on reducing stress. Small business owners wear so many different hats and are pulled in so many directions that the concept of “stress-free productivity” may seem unreachable.

Pulling back and taking the time to actually think about why you are in business may be the first step. What are your goals for your business and what values are most critical to you to accomplish those goals?  What is “authentic” about your work, and is that what your customers see?

It is recommended that you focus on the one or two goals that are most important and no more than three or four values that you want to emphasize. If you can focus your actions on these essential goals and values, you will be reaching the core of your business and simplifying your message to yourself, your employees, and your customers.

Your goals and values define your corporate culture, and it is important to make sure that everyone connected with your organization is familiar with the goals and values that you have chosen. You also want everyone to be on the same page when it comes to how you are demonstrating these core attributes to your market.

The next step is connecting your goals and values to your everyday operations. Are the things that you talk about actually the things that you see and do in your business? Getting yourself and others in your organization focused on what is most critical can reduce the stress of trying to figure out what to do next or why the company is going in a particular direction.

An example of this would be an employee in a small retail clothing store. There are many tasks that the employee must complete each day: stocking the shelves and keeping the merchandise displayed in an attractive manner, completing customer transactions, responding to telephone inquiries, etc. However, let’s imagine that the store owner has made clear to the employee that the primary goal of the shop is providing the customer with specialized service that he or she cannot get at a large box store. That employee will then be able to prioritize greeting a customer in a friendly manner and taking the time to personally assist them, even if it means taking time away from other tasks, like stocking shelves. Knowing these priorities makes this decision less stressful for the employee and helps the owner meet his or her ultimate goals.

Communicating these goals and priorities is crucial to the business. Everything cannot be the top priority – there is only so much time in the day. Determining what is the most important in the long-term, and what short-term actions will lead you there, can reduce the stress to you as the business owner and to your employees.

After all, if we try to do too much all at once we often end up accomplishing nothing. It may just take some thinking about what is really important to you and your business to get close to the “stress-free productivity” that we all desire.

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Preparing for a Disaster

“A business continuity plan is an essential factor of a small company’s long-term success and will contribute to the community’s economic recovery in the aftermath of a disaster.” Maria Contreras-Sweet Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration As we enter the season of storms and power outages, it is necessary for small business owners to get ready…. Read more »

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Preparing for a Disaster“A business continuity plan is an essential factor of a small company’s long-term success and will contribute to the community’s economic recovery in the aftermath of a disaster.”

Maria Contreras-Sweet
Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration

As we enter the season of storms and power outages, it is necessary for small business owners to get ready. The following information comes from a recent SBA webinar.

Are You Prepared?

Generally, it takes several years to build a successful business, but minutes or hours to be destroyed by a disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster, and of those that do reopen, 25% fail within one year. Disasters don’t just include earthquakes and tornadoes. They also include things like hail storms, power outages, and pandemics. In order to prepare for the worst, business owners should:

  • Understand their vulnerabilities
  • Plan for a disaster
  • Periodically conduct drills to test the effectiveness of their plans

Are You Disaster Ready?

Getting back to business after a disaster depends on how prepared you are today. Small business owners invest significant time, money and resources to make their ventures successful. Emergency planning is important but may be put on the back-burner in the face of more immediate concerns. For small business owners, being prepared can mean staying in business following a disaster.

Are You Taking A Risk?

If you don’t have insurance, you’re gambling with your business. Even if you do have insurance, there are still several things that a business owner should consider:

  • What does your policy cover?
  • Is your coverage adequate? Insurance should be sufficient to cover the cost to repair or rebuild your business or home. Replacement cost of your property is not the same as its real estate value. Coverage should include attached structures, such as a garage, storage building or deck.
  • Flood coverage and business interruption are normally separate policies.

Prepare a Business Disaster Toolkit

Every step that you take to prepare for a disaster allows your business to be more resilient should the worst happen. Here are a few easy suggestions to prepare for an emergency:

  • Check insurance coverage, including business interruption.
  • Communicate your disaster preparedness plan with all employees.
  • Back up computer records often and store critical paper and electronic records off site.
  • Make sure you have essential phone numbers for insurance agents, employees, vendors and customers.
  • Consider using a website to post information about your business, so vendors and suppliers can stay informed.

Prepare a Disaster Survival Kit

In addition to the above steps, business owners should also physically prepare for an emergency. Begin by creating a disaster survival kit that is both waterproof and fireproof.  Update it regularly. Include:

  • Cash
  • Nonperishable food (3 day minimal supply) including a can opener
  • Water for each person/pet (1 gallon per day, per person)
  • First aid supplies and medications (eye glasses/contacts)
  • Radio, flashlight, batteries, blankets
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Basic tool kit

Disaster Planning Resources

Look at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety website and review the “Open for Business – EZ toolkit.”  The information helps small businesses take the steps needed to keep functioning in the event of a major disaster or a smaller disruption.

Each month, Prepare My Business hosts free, educational webinars. Attend these virtual live courses to learn more about how to plan your business continuity and disaster recovery strategy. The more you know, the more you can help reduce your business’s risk and quickly recover in a disaster.

Helpful Websites

www.sba.gov/services/DisasterAssistance provides disaster assistance resources.

www.PrepareMyBusiness.org provides business-focused disaster preparedness and planning tools.

www.Ready.gov has emergency preparedness publications available to the public at no cost.

www.ReadyRating.org is a free program from the American Red Cross that helps businesses, schools and organizations become prepared for disasters and other emergencies.

www.DisasterSafety.org from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety advises home and business owners how to prepare for disasters.

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Roundtable Recap: Productivity Tech Tools for Task & Project Management

This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC. The famed Pareto Principle, named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto for his studies of wealthy landowners, can be summed up as, 20% of your efforts produces 80% of your results. And… Read more »

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Productivity Tools for Task & Project MgmtThis week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC.

The famed Pareto Principle, named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto for his studies of wealthy landowners, can be summed up as, 20% of your efforts produces 80% of your results. And this principle has been used in corollary after permutation after derivation in a multiplicity of industries, studies and other principles. While the principle (also called the 80-20 rule and the law of the vital few) doesn’t work out as an exact ratio in all these areas, for the business owner trying to be more productive, it’s a great Litmus test. And, keeping track of that all-important 20% is more consistently done using paper or digital tools like task list managers and project management software in Small Business.

As I said in last month’s blog post (but it’s always a good reminder), every month, Alexandria Small Business Development Center hosts the Business Development Roundtable, where Small Business owners and their representatives come to discuss topical business issues. We learn, network, share and grow together as business in the Alexandria, Virginia, community. January’s Roundtable was a continuation from the success of our November Roundtable on using productivity tools (that you already have) for greater time and email management. We discussed in January issues relating to task and project management in Small Business, that we didn’t have enough time in the November Roundtable to examine. We had a great group who discussed ways for managing by customer, project and task.

One of our Roundtable participants shared that he used Insightly, a CRM (customer relationship management) solution, to manage his sales. I mentioned one of their competitors, Contactually (which is Washington, D.C.-based), also. These tools are really useful when your business is heavily focused on many and frequent touchpoints with your points of contacts (potential, current and past clients). This can be used in conjunction with task and project management software too. In 2014, as part of the Virginia SBDC’s Beyond Google: Marketing & Managing on the Web Webinar series, I presented on the topic, “How to Choose a CRM for Small Business,” if you’d like to learn more about that.

A major struggle with several participants was juggling the paper and digital infrastructure. Some believed it was necessary for them to transition from paper to digital, but it’s been difficult for them to make the leap. Stepping back and noticing what your operational duties, systems and workflows are, this can really help you start to see where paper tools or software that you already have can be utilized, or where new tools may facilitate more productive management of your customers and projects.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 and NeatReceipts Mobile scanners were brought up as ways to help ease the paper to digital transition. These tools extract the data from your paper and puts that into your proper tools, along with an image of the item that you scanned (whether a receipt, contract or letter).

Reggie Holmes of Enthuse Creative (one of our Alexandria Small Business bloggers) uses Basecamp in his brand strategy firm. Another Roundtable participant is using Trello for managing her projects and tasks. Evernote came up as a tool. Executive Director Bill Reagan has been using Evernote to scan his business cards. He also uses a paper day planner and spoke about what works for him. Evernote was also lauded for its quick ability to share/synchronize notes with your other computers and mobile devices, as well as others in your personal and business life.

On the task side, many participants were wedded to their paper planners and calendars for writing down and tracking tasks for the day, week. It was pointed out that having the tool, whether physical or digital, accessible and on you during your work hours is a critical success factor in building the habit to collect tasks and projects but also in doing them when you have a moment here or there to review your outstanding items to accomplish.

Having a backup systems if you have a digital system is important. If you lose power or your system has a problem, you should still be able to run some or most of your business operations in those circumstances. Cloud services (like Dropbox, Evernote and Trello, all mentioned earlier) have their own backups of your data, but it makes sense for you to have your own locally or somewhere else in the cloud; there are several services coming out to help you do that such as Revert.io.

Microsoft Project was also mentioned as a project management tool of many larger companies, but that can be used in smaller companies and organizations as well. As luck would have it, I also recently did a Webinar on Productivity Tools for Small Business and covered many project management tools in there. As soon as the archived version is available, I’ll add it to the comments below as a link!

The conversation closed with discussion of Web browsers and how you can set it up to load your online calendar, task manager, project dashboard, email and more all at once. The tabs can be scheduled to open whenever you open your Web browser, or have it open it every day at the start of your workday. As well, don’t forget to tile or cascade windows on your operating system (it’s a pretty easy right-click function on Windows computers, and you can resize and tile windows manually on Mac quickly once you get the hang of it); this can save you oodles of time from toggling back and forth when looking at one window and trying to data-enter into another. Remember, that 20% of your efforts should be spent most wisely to achieve 80% of your business success!

This month (February 17th at noon at the Alexandria SBDC) we’ll be discussing “Multimedia Marketing” at the Business Development Roundtable, so that will be a great discussion if you have ever wanted to do video, photo, audio (e.g., podcasting), or other kinds of media publishing for your business. Bring your lunch or a beverage if you want!

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Productivity Tools for Time and Email Management

This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC. If you had all the time in the world, would you ever get much done? The British naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson would say unequivocally that you would not. After all, you… Read more »

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Productivity Tech Tools November 2014This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC.

If you had all the time in the world, would you ever get much done? The British naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson would say unequivocally that you would not. After all, you had as much time to complete things as you wanted, so what’s the rush? Parkinson’s Law, named after Mr. Parkinson for his extensive observations of working at the British Civil Service, states that work expands to fill the time allotted to complete it. As Small Business owners we all need to recognize the value of our time, and more importantly the effectiveness of the skills, strategies, people, and tools that influence our outcomes. In doing so, we harness the power of not just our personal productivity but also that of the success of our businesses. Every month, Alexandria Small Business Development Center hosts the Business Development Roundtable, where Small Business owners and their representatives come to talk about topics that make a difference in our business and professional lives. November’s Roundtable was all about using productivity tools (that you already have) to use our time and energy better. We had a great turnout and the group started with a discussion of the virtues of their own personal productivity. Where do you struggle with personal productivity? Where do you excel with your time, team, task and project management skills? People had a wide range of struggles and areas of prowess in their own work worlds; we honed in on time and email management in this Roundtable.

Time Management

The Roundtable participants shared their calendar and time planning tools. Several attendees keep digital and analog calendars. Some keep a calendar planner that they carry with them or have at their office desk, so that they can quickly and easily capture events and appointments in their planners without additional technology. Others need the connectivity to share their calendars with others, and like that they can carry their calendars in their smartphones, so they choose to use software-based calendars. And yet others keep a dry erase board-style calendar that helps them map out their weeks, months and more, to get a higher perspective on their time planning.

The question was asked about how to invite people to events (such as a sales meeting, or to lunch), and whether text (SMS) messaging was appropriate. I took the question, since I actually have a strong opinion on the subject. While I regularly communicate via SMS with my family, friends and staff, I connect infrequently with clients, colleagues, vendors and other work-related contacts via text messaging. It is still primarily via phone and email. And, I need to really look at my calendar and look at other planning documents to usually decide on when something might be a good time to meet with a prospective vendor, partner or other business contact. That said, I would very much rather a phone call followed up by an email, or just an email, explaining why one wants to meet with me. That’s just me. And, that’s my point. I believe that you must ask people how they best like to be communicated with in order to be most effective in getting in someone’s calendar. Sometimes you don’t need to ask directly, as you can find out from others, but you need to find out how a person best plans and communicates. This puts them in the right mindset to make the best, most favorable decision to meet with you.

Also, I mentioned during the discussion section about calendars a really awesome Kickstarter project called the Pivot Calendar. Pivot Calendar is an adhesive, repositionable project management tool for your Small Business. You plan by the quarter, so you can have one, two, three, or four quarters up on the wall in your business. What makes it really unique (as you can see in the video above) is the ability to create a horizontal timeline as well as plan within the weeks vertically. It’s a very flexible planning tool for any business or organization.

Email Management

When it comes to the number one productivity drain people in American corporate and small business talk of, it’s email. Email is a double-edged sword because it’s also an amazing technology that has revolutionized the way businesses and consumers alike communicate. It can be the most productive tool in your business arsenal, or the bane of your professional existence. Thankfully, most of that is up to you! At the Roundtable, several people asked and answered questions about the specifics of their email tool.

Sanebox Email Management Tool

One cool tool that was discussed was Sanebox, an email management tool that works with any email system. The way it works is that it connects to your email service (such as Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo, AOL, Outlook/Live) and on mobile devices (i.e., iOS and Android) so you can manage through Sanebox. It creates “smart filters” that separate unimportant email messages from the important ones for you. As well, it categorizes, spam proofs your email, unsubscribes email newsletters with one click, defers email you want to read or respond to later, and can even save email attachments to your Dropbox file storage account for you. It’s a pretty powerful tool for the Small Business owner looking to maximize their time spent on email.

Because of the success of our discussion this month, we resume the Roundtable program in January (as we don’t meet in December) with a follow-up to this month’s topic. We will cover the areas we didn’t get to discuss at this session: task, project, and team management productivity tools. As a productivity enthusiast, these topics speak particularly to me personally, professionally and intellectually. More importantly for you, these productivity tools help you make more money, have more time for your family and friends, increase your quality of work and life, and decrease distress (the negative kind of stress) overall in your daily life. There are countless other granular benefits, but I’m sure you can think of those yourself. In the next month, I offer you this wisdom from the group—make time to take time to consider the productivity tools you use already and how well you use them. You don’t need more tools to become more productive most often. It is usually a matter of making better use of the tools you already possess, digitally and physically.

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Positive Productivity

Productivity: Wrapping up the First Stage of a...
Productivity: Wrapping up the First Stage of a Special Project (Photo credit: orcmid)

A few weeks ago, we had a great group at an SBDC HR seminar. The attendees had lots of good questions. But they also got to start thinking about some questions that underlie many aspects of positive productivity in organizations.

Here are some issues we discussed for you to think about too. What would your answer be to these questions?

What is your vision for the future?
This question is about where your organization is now and where it is going. What specific vision defines your future goals and plans? How does that vision live in regular activities? ‘Hope is not a strategy’ is not just a cliche.

What is your value proposition?
This one speaks to your continuing success. What do you offer that your customers or clients cannot easily find elsewhere? How do your employees influence your value proposition? How do you demonstrate your value to customers and employees?

How are the two above manifest in your policies and practices?
This is where so many organizations begin to really get into difficulty. Do you talk teamwork but recognize and pay for individual performance mainly? Do you talk about top quality or creativity and high performance but regularly avoid conflict? Do you say you value your employees but provide limited benefits?

How are your vision and value proposition communicated to employees?
Are they included regularly in meetings, newsletters, and performance discussions? Do you tell people a bit about them in your employee guide or orientation and hope they ‘get’ it? Do your actions and policies support what you say?

Clear understanding of an organization’s vision and goals and the role they play in daily activities strengthens employees ability to do their work effectively. They help employees serve your clients or customers better. And that knowledge supports on-going performance that directly relates to your organization’s value.

Take a bit of time off this week from fighting fires and really think about these issues. Then do something! Smart tip – talk with other executives/managers and see if their responses match yours. Get some clarity and then communicate. And move forward to higher productivity.


Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, HR executive, speaker, and author on human capital issues. She is known for her ability to address organizational goals and issues effectively and to create human resource management practices which support these goals without excessive administrivia. Patricia has advised executives and boards on a wide range of human capital and strategic planning issues. She has expertise in organization development, talent management, process restructuring, compensation, and training. She has worked with technology-based companies, government contractors, non-profits, associations, and retail operations. She advises small to mid-size organizations on ways to succeed and to help their employees thrive. Ms. Frame has given seminars for SBDC in recent years on the basic processes of HR management. Additionally, she generously provides one-to-one HR counseling once a month through Alexandria SBDC.

My big secret…

my big productivity secret small businessMy Big Secret is…

Whenever I go away from my office for an extended time (such as vacation or illness), I come back two to several days earlier than when I let everyone know I’m back to work.

Okay, there; I said it. What a relief?! Now, why would I tell you that? Because there’s something about being productivity as a Small Business owner that evades many and being productive makes my heart sing. And, I want you to have that feeling too. If you get back a few days earlier than everyone thinks you’re back, you have time to stabilize your home life and then triage your work projects before the onslaught of communication and so forth swings into action when you are publicly back to work.

One the many great benefits of doing this over the years is that my time away from the office is purposeful no matter if it’s vacation or illness. If it’s vacation, I can spend it with the people I care about that I’m with, knowing that I will return to work with the time needed to get caught up and back on track. No need to do those things while I’m on vacation. Further, if I am on vacation and the urge compels me to do something, it’s usually in a creative capacity and I can capture the ideas and know that I will have a time and place to map out a realistic, strategic goal when I get back from my time away.

Why not just tell everyone that you’re back a few days early?

If I did that, the staff (including my colleagues and clients) would start to anticipate and that’s the death knell of the strategy. Keeping employees and independent contractors on their toes–not to be sneaking up on them, mind you, as I trust the people I work with and so should you–is about not allowing you nor them to settle into well-worn business paths that start disable passionate effort. There are many other ways to “keep honest people honest”; financial fail-safes and team-building activities. I do not return to work usually by going into the office so it’s not a matter of looking over anyone’s shoulder. I’m trying to get my work life in order, not theirs! We can all argue over the finer points of this, but you don’t have that kind of time. You’re an active (as I don’t like the word “busy”) entrepreneur! However, I believe that when people become too used to norm, they become complacent and you are their leader; they need you to keep the passion burning and your ability to prepare, triage and excite them are all inherent in this strategy.

Why not prepare before for your departure?

Actually, I do in a way. I am always preparing for the inevitable time when I may be from the office expectedly or otherwise. And, I recommend that you do so as well. There is a rate of diminishing productivity return on investment when you cram. Hopefully you learned the lack of value of this tactic in secondary or undergraduate education. Also, my staff and colleagues and clients are already well-poised to deal with my absence. Why? Because I have trained them to stand in my stead in different capacities along the way. You can do the same thing and watch the stress melt away. It’s usually your “feeling” that I might be letting them down that would makes you want to do more than is reasonable before you leave. Resist the urge, plan and implement everyday continuity plans for your business operations.

Sometimes I don’t know I’m going to be away for an extended period and so I treat everything as my esteemed colleague, Lou Kastelic of Jordan Crandus, would say about business. “Run your business as though you were going to leave it tomorrow,” he once told an audience of young entrepreneurs (with myself in the crowd). Be it by sale, by dissolution, or death. You’ll quickly see that your business leaps to great heights of both efficiency and effectiveness when you run your business day as though it were your last…every day. This seems to stand true for my personal and work projects as well. If I work from the perspective that I only have now I will achieve more, notwithstanding the great hope and good certainty that I will live to work another day!

A couple of guidelines.

Yes, some people in your organization may need to know about your big secret. For example, my assistant knows when I’ll be back…for real. And, usually one family member knows my real travel itinerary in case of medical emergency and/or safety concerns. At the very least, someone who can take action to save your life in such an unfortunate circumstance needs to know. Additionally, prepare for what you are going to tackle when you get back. Is it your email that always has you crazed? Plan to come back and tackle your email by sifting through it for however long you determine you need to read, reply (in draft without hitting “Send” until people know you have returned) and digesting and planning the action steps from the email messages that require your movement on projects or tasks. Or, perhaps you need to catch up on your blogging while you have been away from the office or store? Well, plan chunks of your time when you get back to focus on writing, editing and scheduling to publish those forthcoming nuggets of insight and wisdom for your target audience. Finally, make the amount of time match the amount of time you need to get your personal and work life back in order. If you need three days, then don’t come back to the office for three days. If you need only one day, make it one day. If you standardize it to always two days, then your mind will start to tolerate the buffer and it will become ineffective.

If we are living life to the fullest, and living our dreams as entrepreneurs, we must face a few realities with poise and excitement. By buffering days to catch up without typical interruptions, you can come back with ease and stability. Have you tried this technique? Has it worked? Do you have unique challenges you would like clarification on to carry out this strategy in your business? Comment and I’ll be happy to discuss!