I attend a lot of meetings both in person and over the phone. Although we are often given an agenda for the meeting I often feel like things wander a little more than I am comfortable with, but instead of getting frustrated I created my own meeting note taking template.
Here is how I use it:
Who: I write who was at the meeting. If it is a really large meeting I might just put the general name of the meeting or key people.
Agenda: I copy the agenda over or if I am in a meeting that doesn't seem to have an agenda I can either ask what it is or figure it out through the meeting.
Connect: Often I am given ideas, direct input or remember people I need to connect with because of the meeting. I put that info in that box. For me, the whole point of having a meeting is to connect with someone or connect people I know to other people.
Do: Here's the thing about meetings, I don't like to walk out without having some task unless it really is just an information session. Do is where I write all the things I need to do and I might write things my team or partners need to do if it something I am going to have to check in on at some point.
Date: I circle the day and write in the date.
Blank Field: The blank field is where I make notes, doodle or write down important concepts. It is the free for all zone.
I have a stack of these printed out and they are on a clip board and on some days I go through half a dozen depending on the scheduling of my day.
You can download the meeting notes template and give it a try. I predict you will have more focused and better meetings.
Download Meetings Template.
Dear Moxie: I am in sales, but I hate networking. I know I should, but it seems so fake. What do you suggest I do to make it feel authentic?
Networking isn't something everyone loves. In fact, most people are really rather shy and aren't able to break into new groups easily. Plus, when we see the proverbial sales person schmoozing it may make our skin crawl. What is a person in sales to do?
My first suggestion is to join one group that is a good fit for you personally. It may not be the best fit professionally, but we will get there. If you are into service, join your local Rotary. If you like sports, join an intramural team. Do you get your kicks doing yoga? Go to a class.
The first step is to get comfortable in a group, get to know the folks in the group and start making real connections with people who also like what you like. The key to this is to go alone. I know, scary, but if you go with a friend you are probably going to sit, workout, or just hang out with that friend. Completely defeating the point of being in the group in the first place.
Now, remember, you aren't there to sell them anything. You are there to work on your skills at meeting new people, getting involved, and making friends/connections.
After you have started with that one group it is time to move onto the conference or business networking possibility. Probably the most dreaded of networking moments you have had. They were either filled with people flinging their business card at you or you sat alone in a corner. It doesn't have to be that way. I promise.
Go to the conference and make yourself talk to people you don't know. Bring 25 cards and make the deal with yourself that you are going to meet 25 people and give them your card. It is as easy as saying hello, asking them about themselves (people love to talk about themselves, leaving you the opportunity to listen and learn, and asking them for their card. When they hand theirs to you, you hand one back. (I told you this was pretty easy stuff, even for introverts.)
If there is lunch, sit with people you do not know. Sure, it is easier to sit with people you do know, but you can go out with them another time, this is your chance to get to know someone else. And again, ask about them. People really do love to tell their story and if you ask a few easy starter questions they will get the ball rolling. Sure, they may not become your bestie, but that isn't the point.
Most business, if not all business, is mostly about who you know. Period. I wish it wasn't that way, but it is. You can sit around an feel depressed because you don't have Harvard connections, know someone who is a CEO or have celeb's on speed dial, or you can get to know the people in your industry and community.
Don't think of any of this as selling. What you are doing is learning to expand your personal boundaries and letting more people in. You never know who your next contact or connection will come from and the time spent expanding your network will only help you in your pursuits.
One of the top 10 thing that we need to let go of to move forward is the idea that what other people think about us or our business is the reality of who we are and what we do.
Today, while driving to a meeting this morning, I heard on NPR the description of Hilda Solis, the US Department of Labor Chair, as being "uncooperative". It was the business community who labeled her as such due to her strong positions protecting workers. Was Solis uncooperative? Probably not. She was probably just doing things that business didn't like. Should she have stopped doing those things? No, but if she spent anytime at all worrying about what they thought she might have second guessed herself.
That, right there, is what happens. We second guess ourselves when we worry about what other people think about us and the work we are doing. That moment where we question the path we are on, due to the idea of what we THINK other people think about us is a time suck and emotionally draining.
Now, that doesn't mean I want you to go around with blinders on or as a bully on the playground. Listen to what others have to say, to some extent, but don't let it sway you far from your path.
I know. This is hard. People aren't necessarily nice or they think that sharing their opinion of what you are doing or you is helpful. It isn't. The time that they are spending thinking about you is probably time they should be spending thinking about themselves.
What other people think about you is not what counts. It is what YOU think of you and the work you are doing that matters. What matters is doing what is best for you, your business, your family, your life - not what others think you should be doing.
If you have made your plan, developed your skills and are working towards your goals - go full on. Don't stop and worry about what others are saying or thinking. The truth is that the minute you put yourself out there, doing anything, someone is going to have an opinion about it. So what. The bottom line is their opinion and getting distracted by it kills your momentum.
Last night I dropped into the rabbit hole that is the internet after seeing someone retweet a tweet from a woman that I knew years ago. I followed that lead down a long twisted path and came out the other side with the mission to tell everyone that there are no get rich quick schemes. You can't buy friends. You can't fake your way to the top.
Here's the thing, there are a lot of people out there who prey on entrepreneurs promising them results, money, new clients, etc. They use all kinds of methods to sell you the next best system, program, or seminar. There are a LOT of these people out there and my advice to you, the small business owner, is that you don't need it.
If you want genuine help with your marketing plan, busines plan, web design or some other aspect of your business find legitimate people in your area that have actual clients and actual work you can see. Don't go on promises, see that they can actually do what they say they are going to do.
If someone says they can buy you Twitter followers, connect you to millionaires, or do some other "to good to be true" thing run away.
How can you tell if it is a get rich quick scheme or the work of a charlatan?
Their website won't talk about real clients or they won't be able to show you examples of work that they have done.
They won't let you talk to current or past clients.
They have long letters on their site or in their emails getting you to sign up for something (this is a LONG standing marketing ploy.) Think about it this way, do you need a long letter to convince you to buy the toilet paper you buy? No? Then you don't need some long sales letter selling you on someone else.
Search their name and company and the word scam. Sadly you might find something. (This is the rabbit hole I went down looking at that person.)
There are no easy answers to doing well in business except have good customer service, offer good products, be ethical, and work hard. I know, not sexy, but really I just saved you about $10,000 in some scheme!
The question I asked on Twitter was: Do you post your Facebook status to Twitter? Why?
The answers ranged from:
Bob: It's bad for businesses. It's like they view their Twitter followers as less important. Too often they ignore Twitter replies.
Chris: That is my number 1 social media pet peeve. Two different outlets. Different uses. Different messages.
Naima: No. I think they are both separate and should be treated as such.
ARFoodie: Nope, I always write something different for FB than Twitter.
Then there was this one lone voice:
John David: Other way around. Twitter to Facebook.
Here's the thing. There is no "right way". I know, I know. More of you prefer to not link your accounts, but you can and people will. Is it the right thing for everyone? No. Is it better to craft separate messages in each media? Yes. Do we always have time for that?No.
In cases like this I like to use the best case scenario - do what is best for you and the people who are part of your circle. If they only follow you in one place and you want to make sure your message is heard everywhere, link away.
But, and this is a big but, if you are cultivating an audience in different places you need to start talking directly to them where they are. Which means no linking. So, look at who is following you - are you talking AT them or are you talking WITH them. If you are talking with them you probably need to stop the auto-forward. If you aren't engaged at all and it is more of an announcement, like from the principal of your elementary school over a loudspeaker, well then, link away.
In the mean time, go check out all those fine folks Twitter feeds! They are up to good stuff... even the one guy who was brave enough to think something different.
In a new feature I will be answering questions that I get here on the blog, in email, and in real life. I get TONS of questions and figure that here is as good a place as any to start answering them. If you have a question you can leave a comment, email me or stop me at the grocery store. Whatever works for you. I, like Lucy from Peanuts, am in.
Question: Does my small business need a budget?
Answer: Yes. I KNOW that wasn't the answer that you wanted, but really, you have to have an idea of your cash flow in order to run your business effectively. It can be simple though, you probably aren't running Apple so you can get by with some quick figures and call it a day.
What you need to put into your budget:
Rent Utilities Phone Internet Supplies Advertising Labor Taxes Subscriptions/Memberships
Income: If you have multiple areas of income you can have a line for each area.
Now, I also like to put a line in for considered expenses. Such as, if this is the year we are buying a new computer, camera, office equipment, etc. I like to figure that in at the beginning. Granted, things happen and you have to do it when you have to do it, but if you KNOW that will help you with planning.
Now, if you KNOW your monthly income and expenses per month you can make a column that shows each month, but if you don't that is ok. Don't let it stop you from doing a budget. Even a rough budget will help you understand where your money is coming and going. If you find during the year that you are having less/more of expenses or income you can readjust your budget.
Here is the bottom line, knowing what you have is less scary than not knowing. People who aren't used to dealing with money or have had money issues personally can often be hesitant to put it on paper, but believe me - knowing is empowering. If you ARE making a profit you will see that, if you aren't you will see that too. It allows you to make some changes. Real changes from real answers.
Even if you aren't 100% sure what your numbers are, estimate them. If you need a template I highly recommend that you search Google Drive for any number of excellent templates. Really, though, it can be in a Word or Excel document and serve you just the same.
Around here we will be focusing on the concept of Auto Focus. What I mean by that is working with schedules, systems, and creating how I want my life/work to look like. I am, no doubt, one of the lucky ones that have crafted a life working, mostly, on my own terms.
A little back story: I worked for large corporations both in and running creative departments when we left all of that to move to a rural environment. I tried to work full time in our area, but there just wasn't a great fit - I am pretty independent. What DOES work, I am a part time director for our Main Street program and I develop my own consulting/contract projects across the nation. Because of this I am able to craft a schedule/life that is of my own design. The same, though could be said for small businesses everywhere - you get to play on your own terms.
I will be honing in on my schedule: when I work best, when I get up and go to sleep, how I fit in fitness and health, how I schedule meetings, etc.
I will be working in detail on my To Do process to make sure it is working for me.
I will be keeping track of my fitness/food with MyFitnessPal - staying healthy is a BIG deal to the solo entrepreneur - or entrepreneurs in general because there just is NO TIME to be sick!
I will be seeing if detailed schedule or a more flexible schedule works better. For instance, does it work better to do all billing on Monday's or when bills come in? Should I stack all of my meetings or are they better scattered.
My computer will get a clean up as I move files off from 2012, set up new rules in mail to deal with things automatically, and create the folders I will need for 2013.
My plans for 2013 both for my clients and myself will finalized this month and posted so I can check in on them regularly.
Basically, I will be crafting the world as I want to live in it. Granted, life throws you unexpected garbage, and all these great systems may go out of whack. I know that, but if I have an overall focus on them this month I feel like the year (and if I really start to click beyond) might just run a little smoother.
I have all the tools a girl could want. I have my Macbook Pro, the internet, iPad, iPhone and every possible to do app there is, but what I love the most is my To Do list that I designed years ago. Between that and a composition book system (more on that later) I can structure my to do list in a way that doesn't make me crazy and actually gets things done.
The To Do List components:
To Do: Obviously there is a place to add to do items. It features a button to x when it is done, a line to add the item and a small place to add who is for. I do a lot of client work and I like to mark that there.
Go: There is a field for places I need to remember to go. Yes, I am in my 40's and if I don't write it down I will get too busy and forget I need to get to the library to pick up the key for an early morning meeting.
Connect: There are people I have to connect with that day and people I want to connect with. I put them in that field.
Sit, Write, Exercise: Those are my three personal methods of me time. I aim to sit (meditate) for 20 minutes, write long hand, and exercise every day. I don't always succeed, but it gives me a running look at where I am missing out.
Dates: I write the date and circle the day... just to remember when I did or when I am going to do something.
Big Blank Spot: My list includes a blank spot because a lot of my work is consulting over the phone and I need to take some notes. That is usually what ends up in that spot. This year it is designed with my One Little Word: Focus.
How I Use My To Do List:
I print out 31 at a time and clip them to my clipboard. This sits next to me on my desk or travels with me in my tote bag if I am out and about.
I add things at the end of the day to the next day or carry over items that are not finished.
I also add things to specific days as they come up via email or float through my concisouness as a to do. They are never big things, instead I make sure that they are actually small aspects of a project that can be done. So, you won't see the name of a festival, but you might see design a poster for that festival. Everything is something that can actually be done.
I also try to limit the amount of things that I am doing. The reality is I can, on a average productive day get 5-10 things done. If I try to cram more than that it just isn't possible and I end up defeated. Instead, I put them on days that I don't have enough things to do.
You can Download my To Do list. It works. I know it seems VERY old fashioned, but it works and I can, when I use this system be extremely productive. And although productivity isn't a measure of how good you are; it is a measure of how good you feel. When I can cross things off my list, see how much I have done in a month, I feel good.
As you know, my one little word for 2013 is Focus. To be honest today got off to a rocky start. I have been taking semi-vacation days through the holidays and today was my first day back in the home office full time. I had my desk all ready, my email cleaned out, but, as with all best laid plans, things didn't quite work out.
The phone rang off the hook, I overslept, my egg tasted terrible, and my to do list got bigger than intended.
That is the key. Don't let a botched morning, meeting or moment ruin the whole day. Regroup what your intentions for the day were and start again.
Rebooting Techniques for Focus at Work
Rework your To Do list - if there are things on there that can be moved or postponed... move them. If you need to add something that is nagging you, add that. Look at your list uninterrupted and start again.
Get a glass of water - I know. Simple. But you are probably dehydrated so go get it.
Shut down social media - yes, it is a temptation - stop, cross some stuff off and feel centered and not distracted.
Move on - if your day is totally wrecked by a sick kid, something really crummy, or not feeling up to par... just stop and start again tomorrow. It is ok to throw in the towel when you are really toast. You aren't going to do your best work anyway. If you are in a brick and mortar and can't physically leave, do what you have to do and put the heavy thinking things off for tomorrow when your morning starts the way you had wanted it to.
Throughout the month of January we will be focusing on things that should be come auto focused - schedules, to do lists, systems, etc.