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Have you ever met someone and thought, “Wow! Did she get hit with the talent stick!” Ha! That is pretty much what ran through my head as I sat in the audience listening to Chrystal for the first time last year at a Sally Clarkson event. I hadn’t heard of Chrystal or her podcast before that weekend. We ended up connecting over conversations of podcasting and Periscope. Funny how when you find someone who speaks your same crazy “tech” language you become instant friends.

Well, I’m all too familiar with Chrystal and her ministry now! I have listened to numerous podcasts, watched videos of her speaking, and read her articles on her blog. She is an incredibly talented and gifted orator just like her dad…well, like everyone in her family. That saying the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is very true for her!Encouragement for the weary mom with Chrystal Hurst

When I listen to Chrystal’s podcast I’m completely drawn in. You feel like you are practically sitting across the table from her enjoying a nice cup of coffee. I can’t wait for you to glean from her in this podcast! You are about to see exactly what I mean.

On a “Simply” & “Joyful” side note…

Chrystal is going to blow your mind when you hear her talk about how she simplifies her busy life. She has some incredible systems in place to create balance for her ministry and for her family. You are going to love it!

In This Episode…

In this episode, Chrystal shares about her life and her book Kingdom Women. She also gives us a little “sneak peek” into her new book She’s Still There. Chrystal is so inspirational. I know you will just love this episode.

Highlights from This Show…

  • Here’s a link to Chrystal’s book Kingdom Women. This book is so encouraging. I hope you’ll check it out. There is also a Bible study for it.
  • Chrystal reminds us of the importance of asking for help. This is actually one of my “sanity saver” tips in mySanity Savers for Moms
  • She refers to the story of Jessica McClure.
  • We talked about Chrystal’s new book, She’s Still There. It won’t be available until summer. Be sure to connect with Chrystal so you will know when the book releases. It sounds incredible.
  • Chrystal shared about her awesome podcast on how she organizes her life and creates balance. Here’s a LINK to that podcast.
  • Block scheduling is Chrystal’s time management hack.
  • We all do things differently. We need to simplify for the season we are in.
  • Chrystal’s favorite worship music: Travis Greene! (not “Green”…wrong guy)
  • Kristi’s favorite “whole album” worship purchase: Phil Wickham’s Sing Along albums!
  • “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength.” by Rend Collective has been such an encouragement to me and I feel so honored that I was given permission to use this song in my podcast.

Please Note…

  • Be sure to grab your FREE copy of my bookSanity Savers for Moms, by joining our Simply Joyful community. It’s a great way to keep in touch…and get subscriber only freebies like my book. Click HERE to get the book and join!

Words to Remember…

Encouragement for the weary mom with Chrystal HurstChrystal is highly quotable! I’d love to hear from you in the comments about what things she said that stood out to you! Here are a few of my favorites:

“We don’t have to have it all together. We have to make peace with not having it all together.” — Chrystal Hurst

“Keep aiming for God and let Him work out in you what He needs to work out, so that you can be who He wants you to be and do what He wants you to do with the life that you’ve been given to live.” — Chrystal Hurst

“We need to partner with God. While we trust Him to dig us out with the truth of His Word, we have to get the shovel and participate in doing the job.” — Chrystal Hurst

“When we mess up, we have to trust that God is big enough to forgive, redirect, & have a Plan B” – Chrystal Hurst

“Multitasking is a Myth!” – Chrystal Hurst

(This podcast is by Kristi Clover. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Owen Hemsath does the video marketing thing like nobody’s business and he’s my guest on this edition of “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks.” Together, we are discussing his contributions to my 2-book set, Entrepreneur Mind Hacks.

One of the chapters that Owen contributed is titled The Law of “As-If”, and it really resonated with me. According to Owen, the biggest enemy you’ll face is your own doubt.

We are constantly battling a force called “resistance ”. Because of this, we tend to take the path of least resistance and only go wherever we think is easiest. Along this path, for some unknown reason, there are voices in our minds telling us that we are not good enough, we’re not original enough, and that we won’t succeed.

But, what separates entrepreneurs is an uncanny ability to think differently. And, even among entrepreneurs, we need to be thinking “stronger thoughts” than other entrepreneurs in order to rise to the top. When we are able to do this, we quarantine those defeating voices in a place where it cannot be heard.

We need to constantly be reinforcing our value propositions to ourselves. In other words, we need to remind ourselves, “You are the best at what you do! You are unstoppable!” But, Owen isn’t talking about simple mantras or daily affirmations. Rather, he means a real, genuine look in the mirror with honest encouragement.

These negative voices that we battle come from the most beautiful of angels – who fell from heaven – according to Owen. The original translation of the name Satan is actually “The Accuser”, which makes total sense. There is a force of evil in the world that wants to see you fail… each and every one of us. So, all that negativity that puts resistance in front of us, according to Owen, comes from the world, our own flesh, and the devil. The bottom line is that the devil wants you to beat up on and hate yourself simply because you were made in the outstanding image of God. Toss in the dads who berated us, uncles who discouraged us, girlfriends that dumped us into the recipe… and success becomes a tough, uphill journey.

To battle all this, Owen engages in a lot of prayer, positive thinking, and he surrounds himself with positive people. And judging by the success of The Video Spot, it’s working!

When it comes to self-doubt and self-defeat, Own wrote that it’s a fast, downward spiral that we need to avoid.

“It’s even crazier that the more you doubt yourself, the more you will doubt yourself.”

It’s basically the simple law of momentum. If you allow yourself to continue moving in a certain direction, you will find yourself, in no time, moving faster and faster in that same direction. That’s basic physics. And the same is true in our psychology and confidence.self-destructive-behavior

That’s where the Act “As-If” Time comes in! Instead of continuing to beat yourself up and “Charlie Browning” about, look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you are created in God’s image. You are powerful. You are more than a conqueror. Act as if you ARE who you AIM TO BE. When you do this, you’ll see those Charlie Brown moments slip away.

What’s also crazy, according to Owen, is the human brain’s inability to discern between an illusion and reality. This is why movies are so impactful. There is a part of our brain that is triggered by the illusion up on the screen, and reacts as though it is reality. So, when you are creating your own mental illusions that you’re terrible and your life is awful, your brain doesn’t know that these illusions are just you being depressed. So, the brain triggers and reinforces this belief. To combat this, you need to “hack” your mind and convince it of life’s actual reality.

Then you need to act on it!

As many experts have said, a goal without action is just a dream. You can dream all you want, and even hack your mind, but you need to follow all that up with action!

Practically speaking, I know that there are some of us who have grown up in very depressed situations and have huge obstacles to get over in order to succeed at their entrepreneurial goals. Even identifying their pessimism is hard enough, much less chiseling away at it and getting rid of it in order to Act “As-If, as Owen prescribes.

But, as Owen puts it, the person who doesn’t strive to reach out and go farther than they are in something… the person who doesn’t aspire for more… are not living up to their full potential. Amazingly, human beings are the only creatures who can do this. A tree grows and grows until it dies. It doesn’t ever convince itself that it’s grown enough or that it just can’t grow anymore. A squirrel doesn’t gather food only until it’s time for the game to start or until it gets distracted. No, squirrels gather all the food they can – with surplus, if possible – until they just can’t get any more.

Owen shares a story about a friend of his who was suddenly disabled and told by the government that he would no longer ever be able to work again.

“You’re telling me that you can’t type on a computer from your wheelchair?” asked Owen. “You can’t provide SEO service for people? You can’t set up a web based store and get into e-commerce?” You’d be amazed at what we can do – even when our bodies are limited – if we allow our creativity and ingenuity to expand our boundaries!

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This week, I’m joined by an amazing digital marketing consultant, and one of the contributors to my 2-book set, Entrepreneur Mind Hacks, Martin Shervington. Martin is an official Google Small Business Advisor and brings ‘Digital Intelligence’ to business, starting with marketing and social media. He was generous enough to help me with four different chapters in my books: Productivity, Creativity, Connection and Success. And, today, we’re going to key in on his ideas regarding Creativity.

For Martin, in order to be creative, he needs to be having fun! This may have some roots in his “side gig” of getting on stage and doing stand up comedy. More than performing for others, when he takes the stage, he goes up there and has fun. He has found that if he goes up and is not enjoying himself, but just reading from a script or memorized notes, everyone in the room knows that it’s not fun… or funny. It only works when he goes out and naturally has fun with the people he is performing for.

So, when it comes to life away from the stage, the secret is to find people who are willing to play. Whether it’s away from the computer or on social media, when people are connected and willing to thoughtfully exchange ideas… and play… then the connections are much more comfortable and productive.

Now, the hard truth is that business processes are not fun. And, as businesses grow and tasks abound, it’s easy to get sucked into the mundane parts of work. Therefore, it’s important to set aside time now and then for your team to have fun together – even if they are thousands of miles apart. There are games that can be played via video conferencing that can effectively set a new, creative tone for your team.

When Martin begins various tasks, he often begins by thinking to himself, “How can I make this an enjoyable experience?”… and not just for himself, but for the people on his team, as well as the end users and clients.

Like anything, if you are only going through the motions, then whatever you are doing becomes dull. This is true for anything from blog posts to office interactions. People need to feel refreshed.

Consider any successful television show. From season to season to season, there are consistent elements and currents, but as the show progresses, it takes new steps and additions that keep things fresh.

One trick is to figure out how to get into your fun, creative place in your own mind. For Martin, the key is to get obsessed with something to the point of looking at it from new perspectives and seeing new details within it. Then, as he dives down one rabbit hole after another, he needs to be able to step back and laugh at himself as he peeks into each bit of minutiae. But, more than the rabbit holes, Martin enjoys figuring out how to connect the dots of all the different perspectives he discovers along the way, resulting in figuring out how to do something that isn’t currently done.

So, like in athletics, you won’t get better and better or discover new techniques if you don’t push yourself into new, exciting (sometimes scary and risky) arenas.

And that’s where the fun comes in!

Image: Laura Williams

Image: Laura Williams

Years ago, Martin worked as a windsurfing instructor. At the time he learned a motto: If you’re not falling in the water… you’re not trying hard enough. This meant that at certain points, as he learned new techniques, tricks and skills, he had to be willing to fail. After smashing into the water, he would learn how to adjust and what to do differently until eventually, he would master the new technique.

The same principle applies to being an entrepreneur.

As you start out, you don’t want to risk everything, but if you’re not willing to try different stuff out, then you won’t grow. And with today’s technology, you don’t always have to go at it alone. Through social media, you can often crowd source your ideas into action, while creating a “space” for people to “play in”… all with the end result of trying out your new endeavor.

The secret is then to share with one another what is learned during this playtime. What worked? What didn’t work? By doing this, you end up with a learning community around you, who are having fun while doing your research!

For example, while in Brazil last year, Martin had the idea of putting a certain village on the global map. He networked with local businesses and they all cooperatively agreed to some virtual meetings and signed up for Google Maps. Based on their success, in no time, other people started picking up on this idea and began hosting real and virtual events in their small towns, and a model began to arise… and BOOM, out came Google Local Guides!

Now, as it happens, Martin is examining how this process of bringing people together and putting small communities on the map works with overall Google search functions. Keeping in mind that “play” is more fun for most people than “research”, he now has several groups of people “play/working” to find new solutions to draw global eyes to any town in the world with the right Google and social media positioning.

One of the keys is to effectively connect people in fun and exciting ways. When people enjoy one another and feel connected, they are much more willing to share and go the extra mile for one another – whether it be in research, growth, or creativity.

To learn more from Martin, check him out at PlusYourBusiness.com!

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This week, I’m joined by award-winning podcaster and one of the many contributors to my 2-book set Entrepreneur Mind Hacks, Daniel J. Lewis. Daniel has some simple but amazingly powerful productivity tips to share!

Daniel helps people launch and improve their podcasts and helps them communicate their passions to the world. As an entrepreneur, he knows what it is like to have limited time to work with, and the need to make the most of every second in order to be productive.

Daniel defines “productivity” as simply being able to get things done. It is a combination of using the right tools for the job, knowing how to use those tools well, and discovering new tools or techniques to be able to accomplish the things that you need to in the time that you have without having to sacrifice. When it comes to systems, they are important as long as they are not too complicated.

Whatever system you use to accomplish your daily tasks must be simple enough for you to consistently follow and effective enough that it actually works.

You could have “the best system in the world”, but if you never use it, it’s pointless. Or if it’s so complicated that you’re always using it incorrectly; or you’re spending more time on the tool and trying to get it to work within your workflow, it’s no longer an effective system.

The first system, or better yet, simple tip, that Daniel offers is to SCHEDULE YOUR TASKS. This sounds like a no-brainer, but Daniel goes a bit deeper:

“Often, we don’t have time for something unless we make time for it. We will schedule times to meet with clients or to make important calls, but it is also helpful to schedule into your day things like processing email.

I don’t even receive as many email as other people do – I get maybe 40 or 50 emails a day – but the times that I find that I’m able to process these the best is when I have actually scheduled time each day to process my inbox.

I typically schedule an hour per day, and I try to spend that time doing nothing but that task – focused on handling my email. By doing that day after day, after day, not only does it help to know that this is the time that I do this specific task (in this case, email). But, it’s giving me a regular amount of time each week to accomplish it.

You see, if you set aside an hour per day to process your email inbox, that adds up to five hours per week! Sometimes you might look at your inbox and think, “No WAY! This is gonna take five hours for me to get through!”

But, if you schedule one hour per day on whatever scheduling system you use, then you’ll actually have the accumulated time to accomplish this task.

By putting your own appointment in your schedule, it blocks out the time you need and it prevents other things from happening during that time. So, no one else can schedule a meeting with you during that time; You won’t take other calls during that time; You won’t schedule anything else during that time. And, if you use any kind of digital system, it’s very likely that it will also remind you that time is coming up.

So you’ll have these reminders telling you when to switch tasks or prepare for an upcoming task.”

So, what qualifies as a task worth scheduling? According to Daniel:

“Really, anything that you want to do or maybe anything that you find yourself doing. For me one of these things is participating in social networks. I actually have that scheduled into my daily calendar. For me, that is important for my business because I feel that it’s important for me to go out there and interact with people who are in my field, respond to tweets, check out my Facebook groups…

Image: Justin Pot

Image: Justin Pot

And this isn’t just marketing. Sometimes it’s just helping people answer a question and provide solutions for people. When I interact with my social media outlets, it really builds my brand, and it shows that I’m interested in giving back to the community. But it can be quite a time waster, if not properly handled. It’s very easy get lost in time while surfing around and around and around my various social media spheres.

So, as silly as it seems, I actually have “Social Media Participation” scheduled on my daily calendar.

I have a set time on Mondays when I start preparing for my podcast, a set time when I go live, as well as certain times I prepare for those podcasts. And usually, when I have a project that I know it’s really important – that I  really need to take care of this week – I will schedule with myself to make sure I do it. Then I won’t let anything else interfere with that project. This system is better than just a “to do list” that says, “This is what you need to do today…”

It’s much more specific.

But how would someone use this approach when it comes to projects that could take days, weeks, or even months to complete?

It’s not so much about blocking out the time to complete the task in totality – although it might be. I might decide I’m going to work an hour or two on a particular project on these particular days of the week for a certain amount of weeks. Not only is this a great way to focus and get that stuff done, but it can also be more of an accountability tool for myself.   My calendar will remind me at this time I need to switch over to work on this other task. So I start transitioning over. I start working on the next task. And then, I might continue working on that new task all day. But, I might not have ever made that transition to that task in the first place without the scheduling reminder. I might’ve been chasing all the little fires that surround me each day instead of doing the task. And by the time today’s over, I’d realize that I ran out of time.

The calendar is just a way of me helping myself to be more accountable to the tasks I need to do in that day.

Now, I have found that sometimes I need to make a hard decision between what is worth scheduling into my day, and what I simply need to toss to the trash. Daniel has these recommendations for prioritizing what should be included in your daily schedule and what doesn’t:

Often times, I need to ask myself, “What’s the return on investment here?” and not in on actual dollar amount. Sometimes value can’t be assigned to certain things, like social media participation, for example.

So, I have to decide is this really worth my time?

I need to work on treating myself like I should be treating the people who work for me – assigning myself one specific task during a specific time to focus on.

So, in essence, Daniel has set up a system that helps him stay disciplined.

Some people don’t struggle with that as much as I do I know that my biggest struggles are procrastination and time management. I put things off. I get distracted by all the shiny new things I run across. This extra structure is what helps me to stay on top of things and accomplish things; and when I see that I’m falling behind on the tasks I need to do, it is usually because I wasn’t following my structure as much as I should have been.

The second trick that Daniel shared in my book is to USE A TIMER TO AVOID DISTRACTIONS.

Image: Dale De Leon

Image: Dale De Leon

Any kind of timer that you have – even if you grab your kitchen timer or use an alarm clock – can be sued as a timer. Or, use the timer on your smartphone or tablet. Or use a website like e.ggtimer.com. What a timer can do is help you focus via what is called the “Pomodoro Technique”.   You set a timer for yourself for, say, 25 minutes and you focus on whatever task you are on and nothing else for those 25 minutes. This gives you extra mental freedom because you’ll inevitably get distracted during that time, but you can defer those distractions. You see, if I am half-way into a 25 minute period and I get a distraction, like a quick thought of a possible email coming into my inbox, or an alert of some sort… I can look at my timer and realize NO! I need to focus. And I can check my email in 12½ minutes. I can wait 12½ minutes!

It’s kind of like when I used to teach small children. It almost always happened right in the middle of a lesson, at least one kid raised his hand and asked if they could go to the bathroom.

Each time, I would immediately ask them, “Can you wait?”

And the answer, almost always was, “Yes.”

It’s a similar situation with these little distractions that can wait. You can wait to reply to that tweet or check your email or let someone go to voicemail and call them back in 15 minutes…

By deferring those things, you offer yourself more mental freedom to focus on that task right then. And when your timer runs out, you can then pursue those distractions (if you want to) Or, you may find yourself in a great zone because you’re focused! You’ve spent so much effort on focusing for those 25 minutes that you are now in a “productivity sweet spot”.

If this is the case, simply reset your timer for another 25 minutes, or however long you want, and you can get really productive work done during that time.

So much of what we do in trying to get stuff done is often just the transition into it.

I’ve seen multiple studies that said it takes up to 15 minutes – sometimes people say it’s up to half an hour – for you to really transition your brain from one task to another. So, if you’re focusing for 25 minutes, a lot of that is your brain transitioning into that task and you may find yourself in a great point where you are just “in the zone”, writing like crazy… podcasting… or whatever the task is!

You’ll find yourself in that “zone” because you’ve disciplined yourself with what seems like simple disciplines. So, when your timer does end, you may find yourself not wanting to pursue your distractions and instead stay focused for even longer in order to get more accomplished! 

All this begs the question of whether or not there are tasks that DO NOT work well with Daniel’s timer.

I think the tasks that have an indefinite amount of time, or where you don’t need to focus much on it, fall into that category. For example, one-on-one consulting or talking with someone on the phone. I think it’s actually disrespectful to set a timer and have the mindset that in exactly 15 minutes, this interaction must end.

To be conscious of the time is one thing, but to make someone feel like they’re on a timer is another. So, if you’re interacting with other people, especially face-to-face or voice to voice, that’s not when you should use a timer technique. But instead, maybe just a calendar technique and block out that chunk of time in your day.

Other tasks might include tasks that you’ve been dreading. A better way to time these out is with the “timer reset” technique.

This is a technique that I learned from Stever Robbins – The Get it Done Guy. This is a way that I’ve been able to clean up my office and clean rooms that I would have never otherwise cleaned. The flipside of the psychological thing of using a timer is when you tell yourself, “I’m going to give myself only 15 minutes to work on this task.” Then it seems very attainable. You give yourself those 15 minutes. And you work on that task. If you then DO reset the timer after that, and continue working for another 15 minutes, there might be a psychological switch that goes on that the next time you need to work on that task (or continue working on that task) you might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time right now.” And really it just takes 15 minutes. But you’re conditioning your brain to think “A 15 minute task actually means an hour”. So, those may be times when you might use the timer… but don’t reset it. And I suggest that when you do those things that you really dread – set a timer and when the timer is done, you’re done. Or, at least wrap it up as quickly as possible. That way, the next time you have to do the task, you know you only have to do this for 15 minutes!

And if you think about it, over the course of a week at only 15 minutes per day, you’ve actually spent 75 minutes doing something quite easily rather than dreading it for an hour in one shot.

For more amazing insights from Daniel, check out danieljlewis.com!

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Shawn Manaher is my guest this week, as we discuss his contribution to my 2-book set “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks”.  Shawn has some golden nuggets regarding the power of good connections to share with us, and advice on how to avoid totally messing them up!

Let’s start with the basics: What are networking & business connections?

According to Shawn, networking connections are simply making and building relationships related to whatever you want to build.  So, in this context were talking about networking for the purpose of building business.  Think of it more as a relationship more than just an activity – getting to know one another.  Often times, those that are in the “online space” make the mistake of thinking that networking is just like online.  However, all networking should actually be approached in more of an “offline” approach, in that getting to know one another and establishing a relationship should be paramount.  Once you know and understand what each other’s strengths, weaknesses, services and needs are, then the mutual benefit of the connection will naturally surface.

When Shawn goes into a networking, or into any kind of connection, relationship he understands that there’s a give-and-take in the relationship.  This practically works itself out by having a certain set of strengths and services connected with the person he has networked with so that when Shawn meets someone else who needs that service, he instantly will connect the two people and see their business grow, while fulfilling the need of the other person.  Then, as the relationships grow and become more and more reciprocal, everybody within the network wins!

You see, as Shawn puts it, your business growth and your business potential is only as strong as your ability and the strength of your network.  Now, he is the first to admit that this truth didn’t sit easy with him at first.  Shawn didn’t like that the idea that success really is about who you know not what you do.

Yet, as Shawn connected with and became friends with people such as Chris Dreyer from Attorney Rankings, he realized that now, either one of them would be willing to drop everything to help one another succeed – all because each of them have given to one another without expectation.  So, in building his networking circles, Shawn has come to understand both who he has connected with, as well as where their mutual benefits reside.

Now, it’s a hard truth that some people are going to be more takers than givers.  But if you find a core group of people that are willing to give, and you’re willing to give, and there’s that mutual respect and connection across the board… then, those people become your inner networking circle.

One of the most valuable lessons Shawn has ever learned came to him the hard way:

If you’re going to network, then you need to constantly connect with the people you are networking with.

Since learning this incredibly valuable lesson, Shawn is much more organized and almost always has a plan in place before meeting somebody.  He puts them in an email database.  He follows up with them on a regular basis so that he is connecting with them in a meaningful way.  Ultimately, the purpose of networking is not just to accumulate a list of names that you know, but to help build each other’s business efforts to new levels.

But to achieve this, Shawn needed to come up with and organize an effective system.

At one point, Shawn was going to a lot of business networking events.  He was mostly going to open networking events where he would basically meet with anybody and connect with anybody.  But, then he learned about closed networking events. At these events, instead of focusing on meeting 100 different people at each event, taking part in short conversations amounting to very little meaningful give and take, he decided to go into a closed networking group.

There, Shawn worked on building relationships with a select few individuals particularly interested in building each other’s businesses in a mutually beneficial way.

Image: Grapevine Networking

Image: Grapevine Networking

Typically a closed network would be a group of about twelve like-minded businesspeople that Shawn will see fairly regularly – on a monthly basis, he meets with two or three of those individuals face-to-face, one-on-one for about 30-45 minutes.  He gets to know their businesses they get to know Shawn’s.  And then, through that one-to-one connection, each of the people are able to refer business at a higher rate and a much more successful rate for one another because they actually know each other.

Among his other efforts, Shawn has begun Sidepreneurs (sidepreneurs.com).  This innovative pool of resources, podcast, and connection site  is all about helping individuals launch their side-businesses and graduate into full-time entrepreneurship!  Shawn offers mentorship which comes out of his own experience, as well as his network.  The result has been the building of a community of like-minded individuals who are focused on building their side businesses and helping one another achieve those goals.

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Susan Finch was one of the most prolific contributors to my 2-book set “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks” . This week, she is offering the “full scoop” of her genius, as we discuss hacks that can move your business forward.

One of Susan’s greatest nuggets that she wrote was, “Productivity starts before you punch the clock” – meaning that before you even sit down to begin your first task of the day, you need to be in the right frame of mind in order to do a great job that day. For Susan, this begins from the second that he morning alarm goes off… before she even lifts her head from her pillow. That’s when she makes the decision to have a great day, do her very best for her clients, be honorable and helpful, and to have a lot of fun!

As Susan puts it, it’s like armoring yourself with Teflon before the kids start fighting in the morning.

But, this doesn’t happen automatically. It takes time to initiate this key to success. But, by taking the time to do this, it enables Susan to transition from each distinct stage of the morning, and even the entire day. When her morning “ritual” becomes routine, then she is much more capable of focusing on what is in front of her and being much more productive.

One lesson Susan learned from her mom was to never even leave her master bedroom until she was ready to take on the day – dressed, hair done, makeup done, teeth brushed, etc. By setting the stage for each day in this way, both Susan and her mother are prepared to take on anything that might spontaneously come their way.

Once she has herself together, then she spends time doing things like preparing her kids lunches, or doing things for her non-profit, or preparing things for a volunteer opportunity at her kid’s school… any number of tasks that are non-work related. In fact, she handles these things before she ever looks at her email or social media. It’s her way of lovingly taking care of those near and dear to her with all of her focus and without the distractions of work and other demands.

This helps her compartmentalize her day from the very beginning, setting the stage for an even more productive day once her work hours begin.

You see, according to Susan, human beings crave structure. We often don’t even realize it, but when we are surrounded by clutter and mess, we also surround ourselves with reminders of unmet obligations or goals. This is depressing!

But, when we declutter our office, home, or even counterspace, we will feel less burdened and be more productive!

Image: Grasshopper.com

Image: Grasshopper.com

Here are some of the “simple tasks” Susan does each morning:

  • Clean the dining room table
  • Feed the pets
  • Clear the kitchen counter

By taking care of these simple tasks, she expresses her love for her family while jump-starting her day with simple productivity. You see, the way that Susan is wired, when she is of service to someone or creating something, she is at her happiest. When she is stuck doing something that doesn’t fall into either of those categories, she simply doesn’t feel right.

Now, most of the time, her efforts go unnoticed. Her kids rarely even recognize that they have a clean place to eat their cereal in the morning or lunches are made. But, we don’t love in order to receive recognition, and when they do notice that she has done something nice for them, the rewards are precious.

All this to say, these morning routines don’t have to be huge, elaborate systems. Sometimes it’s as simple as slicing apples so that her daughter can eat her lunch and talk with a friend without a mouthful of fruit.

But, while it doesn’t need to be elaborate, it does require intentionality. In order to be productive in anything – whether it be as a parent, a homeowner, or a business person, we need to pay attention to what those around us need. This helps us most effectively meet their needs.

It all begins with a proper mindset.

For instance, Susan prays daily, thanking God for her clients that allow her to work from home… establishing a grateful and selfless mindset each and every day.

Susan began learning about this years ago. When she was planning her wedding day, her priest asked her and her fiancé to answer one question (one that had no right or wrong answer) that would lay the foundation for her entire wedding day: Would she be the gracious host or the honored guest?

By deciding to be gracious hosts, they would not disappointed if things didn’t go perfectly throughout the day, but they would be incredibly filled with joy just seeing their friends and family celebrate the special day together.

This translates into her life today, both personally and professionally.

Early in her career, Susan had the opportunity to work under Jack Mealer, an advertizing great from Orange County, CA. While there, she saw a coffee mug that read:

“Our clients do not need us, we need our clients.”

This motto seemed to embody nearly everything that the firm did. Susan learned early on to never take anything for granted. They simply maintained the mindset that they were grateful for the opportunity to serve their clients.

Now, there is no guarantee that each day will end perfectly, but at least she can set the stage well by beginning each day filled with love, fun, creativity and productivity!

But what happens if your day takes an unexpected turn and suddenly becomes one of “those days”, despite your best efforts?

Susan offers some mindset game changers:

  • You can choose when to stop being in a bad mood, culminating into a choice when to stop having a bad day. Sometimes this is incredibly difficult, especially when we find ourselves so mired in our rough circumstances that we can’t see a way out of them. Susan is blessed to have a husband who will honestly (and lovingly) call her out when she begins to spiral. We all need someone like that. But when he’s not around, sometimes a simply change of location helps immensely! Try taking a quick walk outside. Getting out, away from your desk will help spur creativity and problem-solving.
  • Or, when your day takes a rough turn, call a friend or relative with the purpose of listening to them. Listen carefully about what is going on in their lives and respond with empathy and care. Too often, we make life all about ourselves. By actively listening to someone else, we set our perspectives into a more self-less mode.
  • Next, get out a pencil and paper. Stop typing on your computer. When we express ourselves through actual penmanship, a different part of our brain is engaged. So doodle, or make a list. It can be on paper, or a white board, or in chalk… whatever you prefer.
  • If you can, do some gardening. Susan’s not even a “gardener”. But, getting down in the dirt and getting your hands dirty – whether it’s mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, or planting petunias – offers a sense of instant gratification, accomplishment, and like writing on paper, engages and stimulates a different part of the brain, which will promote productivity and problem solving. Vacuuming the carpet or ironing clothes will achieve the same outcomes.
  • Finally, if you’re having a bad day and are in need of a mindset reset, turn off your phone, email, and all your notifications. According to Susan, multitasking is dumb. It is not productive. When we constantly shift our attentions from one thing to another, we are never fully focused on anything. This prevents us from doing our very best at any task in front of us. Instead, create an atmosphere that will lead to success!

You can learn more from Susan at SusanFinch.com.

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