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It can be very easy to get into quite the routine at work. If you’re like me, you roll out of the bed in the morning, eat your toast in the car on the way to work, and then slowly press start on the coffee machine as the lights turn on in the office. One of my goals for the new year is to make a few easy swaps to my morning routine and my routine in the office more environmentally conscious. 

My first swap is my drive to work. I don’t really need to drive to work. I’m fortunate to live within walking distance of my job, so my goal is to start walking to work (maybe when it's a little warmer out). Not only will I get my morning exercise, but I will also save money in gas and help the environment a little too. 

My second swap is my morning coffee. Rather than single use cups, I decided to bring a mug to work. This is an easy way to reduce your overall trash usage for the day. In addition to morning coffee, I decided to switch my daily canned sparkling water to having a reusable water bottle at work. 

My next switch up in my work routine is my paper usage. My goal is to go completely digital in the office, unless I absolutely have to print something out. I have been accomplishing this by having my “notepad” online, and using email more often to communicate with my coworkers rather than relying on printed reports. 

Next is my daily lunch. I always bring my lunch in reusable glassware, however some of my components to my lunch are bought individually rather than in bulk. Rather than buy five personal size containers of yogurts, my next grocery shopping trip will be one giant container of yogurt instead. Another trick I have been doing is skipping the plastic bags, and instead I started using reusable bags for my snacks throughout the day. Also, bringing your own lunch rather than going out to eat can help reduce your trash intake and save a little money too. 

Lastly, I always make sure I turn the lights off in my office before I leave, even if it's not the end of the work day. My goal for the new year is to unplug anything in my office that I don’t use all the time. For example, the paper shredder. 

All of these changes in my daily routine are super quick, but will ultimately reduce my footprint a lot over time. At first it can be challenging to get into the habit of making initial changes like these. However, you might be surprised at what other swaps can come up along the way. Changes that might have seemed hard at first don’t seem so challenging anymore after you get started in the right direction. Once you start walking to work, maybe you’ll also start walking to the grocery store or out to a dinner with friends. Or maybe you’ll skip the straw in your drink when it’s finally warm enough to have iced coffee again.

Post date: 201901

Recently, I’ve been thinking about time debtors. You know the type. The people that keep stacking ‘to-do’ things on their plate. Things that they’ll never actually have time to do in spite of their best intentions, or things that will take 90+ hours per week to accomplish. You’ve probably either worked with one, lived with one, or  –gasp!-  are one. There’s an epidemic of chronic busyness in modern society, and most of us are over-promising our time. Electronic communication has made it easier than ever to reach more people and make more asks than ever before.  Chronic busy days are filled with email pouring in day and night, phone calls, text messages, zillions of things to do for kids, family, friends, pets, and long lost 2nd first cousins twice removed.

Years ago in a cultural pamphlet for the Olympics being held in London, I read that Americans ‘spend’ time and talk about it like time is money. I thought this was obvious (being American made), but as I thought about it, found it interesting that this is a cultural thing to know about people from the U.S.. That means, other countries don’t view time the same way, as something to ‘spend’. We Americans have all heard that old adage, but time is money (I’ve never felt more patriotic!)! Which is why, when we over commit and add to our to-do lists until it would take months or years to dig out from them, we become time debtors. We’re over-spending on our time.

For loans from a bank, it’s less likely that we’d take on more debt than we could service. Because bankers wouldn’t approve the loan. There’s an external check that is very interested in our ability to repay. With time, in general, we’re the only regulators of it. To make matters worse, as was written in a recent ‘Smarter Living’ article in the New York Times (NYT), we get a reward in our brains when we start something new, so we like to start new things whether we’ll finish them or not. Great. So now, our own biology is working against us.

Cue ‘the planning fallacy’ which is a “predisposition of humans to underestimate the time it takes to complete a thing”, Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism is quoted as saying in the NYT article. His advice? Estimate the time it will take to do the task, then multiply by THREE. In his experience, that results in “absolutely” accurate projections of the investment required to complete something. If three is too big of a mental hurdle for you to start with, try ‘two’ and measure how close you are to accurate. Bump it up to three if needed.

 

A couple of other gems from the NYT article: Perfect is the enemy of good. Seriously think about how much the extra hours working on a project to make it perfect will actually benefit the final product, and think about the cost of the other things you could be doing with those hours. Sometimes, ‘done’ is good enough!

Write down the specific steps of what you’re going to work on, as it’s easy to get distrac- hey can you hold on a minute? I just got a phone notification that might be important    ….  ….

OK! Where were we?

Ah, yes! Write down the specific steps of what you’re doing, and hack your brain’s biology (the stuff that gets excited about starting new things) by using these units of progress as items you can check off on your to-do list. As you tick off these so-called units of ‘microprogress’, you’ll create a positive reward in your brain that makes it so you want to keep building on your success and makes it easier to keep the ball rolling on progress. Now, your biology is working for you; that’s more like it!

What’s the best and most effective way to keep yourself from becoming a time debtor? Think carefully about tasks before adding them to your to-do list. Ask yourself:

  • Is this necessary? If it is necessary, how important is the task relative to other to-do items? (Allocate time accordingly)
  • Does this advance my goals or hopes in a meaningful way?

If the answer to these questions is not really, then let’s do as the anti-drug campaign of the 80’s encouraged us and ‘Just say no!’. If you keep saying yes, or if you keep adding on to your own to-do list, you’ll end up with WAY more on the ole’ proverbial plate than you’ll probably ever actually get to taking care of, and, likely be stressed out in the process.

If the answer to the questions is yes, think about the most effective and efficient ways to complete the tasks, and think about the minimum amount of time needed. If you give more than the minimum, how much are you adding or gaining by increasing your time spend? What’s your return on that time investment? I like to set hard boundaries on the time I have each week to do things, then allocate time to tasks within that time budget.

If I work a 40 hour week, then I only have 3 hours to write, edit and send this blog post off to the magical internet genie who posts it. I break it out as 1.5 hours to research and write it, 1 hour to edit and revise, let it sit overnight, then 30 minutes to re-read and make final edits before sending it off.

So, don’t bury yourself in tasks that require more time than you realistically have. 100 minutes is approximately 1% of your whole week’s time. You get a budget of 1,440 minutes per day and 10,080 minutes in a week.

Anyway! We’re losing time as I write! Go out there and live with a balanced time budget!

 

The excellent article that provided tips on how to address being a time debtor:

“Why You Start Things You’ll Never Finish”

By Tim Herrera 

New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/09/smarter-living/why-you-start-things-youll-never-finish.html

Post date: 201901

If you have ever watched CNBC's "The Profit" you likely have heard serial entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis admonish business owners with those words.

While reviewing financial statements may not be your favorite thing to do, it’s important to keep a close eye on the financial drivers that can help you avoid a train wreck.

To help ensure that your business stays out of financial trouble, take the time to familiarize yourself with the following financial statements and mission critical numbers behind them.

1. Profit and Loss Statement:
Most business owners are at least familiar with the P&L. This is a snapshot that shows your company's profitablity, or lack thereof, over a period of time. In short, you take your income, subtract your expenses, and what you are left with is a bottom line result that is either positive (a Profit) or a negative  (a Loss).

2. Cash Flow Statement:
Closely related to the P&L, but often misunderstood, is the Cash Flow Statement. When your cash inflows exceed your cash outflows you may say that you're operating in the black. If the reverse is true, it's time to take a look at where things might be going off track. A common example of this is when a company is making lots of sales but customers are taking too long to pay. In this case, the P&L may show that you are profitable for the period. However, because the cash that should be in your bank account is stuck in Accounts Receivable your cash outflows may be greater than what truly flowed into your company.

3. Balance Sheet:
The balance sheet tells the story of What You Own vs. What You Owe. What is critical to understand is the relationship between your assets, your liabilities and the owners' equity of a business. 

4. Gross Profit Margin:
This figure reflects how much of every dollar you make in sales remains after the actual cost of your goods is subtracted. If you sell an item for $100 and it costs you $50 to purchase that item then your Gross Profit Margin is 50%. 

5. Fixed Overhead Expenses:
These costs are all the expenses you have to cover regardless of how much revenue you generate. Examples would include rent, utilities, insurance, business licenses, etc. Once you know your fixed operating costs you can then determine the following...

6. Break Even Point:
If your fixed overhead expenses total $5,000 per month you simply divide that $5,000 by your Gross Profit Margin of 50% in our example above and you will see that you must make $10,000 in gross revenue to break even.

There are many other financial numbers that can help you understand what drives your business. This article simply serves as a primer to get you focused. If you would like help understanding what your business numbers are telling you, the SBDC is here to help. In addition to helping you understand your own numbers we can also compare your firm's results to your peers in your specific industry. This financial analysis will give you a quick snap shot of where you may be outperforming your peers or where there could be some room for improvement.

Post date: 201901

“That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet” – Shakespeare

I thought my task for this blog post was going to be easy… to provide our readers with some great Vision and Mission Statement examples to inspire you for the New Year. But the more I researched the topic, the more frustrated or unimpressed I became… Although I researched a number of credible sources and high-profile “successful” companies, there were conflicting definitions of, or distinctions between, Vision and Mission Statements. So, to try and bring clarity and relevance to the situation, I’m going to ask you to search internally for inspiration…

What are your dreams for this year and beyond?

If the future was laid out for you on a map, your Vision would be your destination. Your Vision is how you want the future to look – it’s your dream.

If crafting a Vision Statement seems too fluffy or high-level to be meaningful, working on your Mission Statement may put more meat on your organizational bones. A Mission Statement delves into the nuts and bolts of moving from your current situation to your desired destination. Your Mission involves your product or service, your target customer, your operations, and how and why your business creates value. 

Something I often encourage clients to consider is the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of their given situation. GrowthWheel takes a very similar approach in helping clients draft a Mission Statement, as shown in the example below. 

Personally (perhaps as a type-A number’s geek), the strategic statements I find most effective and motivational also include quantifiable metrics and a timeline. For example, imagine a company is in its third year in business, currently employs twelve people and has a current customer base of 200, concentrated in Washington State. The forward-looking strategic statement for this company might sound something like: 

By 2024, [company name] will be a B-Corp Certified company, employing 70 people, producing 100% organic [product], which will be available in 2500 specialty retail locations across North America. With national recognition and awards, [Company name] will strengthen the presence of heirloom and heritage [product] in the [industry] landscape while demonstrating social empowerment and environmental sustainability.

At the end of the day, don’t get too hung up on semantics. What you call a Vision, someone else may call a Mission, a Value, or a Core Competency. What matters is that the collection of words (in any order) strategically fuels you (and members of your company) with inspiration and moves you all in the same direction. 

So… back to the original question… 

What does the future of your business look like?

Note: Dreaming is an awesome place to begin your journey!

Post date: 201901
If you’re anything like me, you probably indulge in dietary delight from Halloween until December 31st. I mean, it’s a natural instinct to tack on some mass for the winter. I saw some bears and hedgehogs doing it, so I really don’t feel that bad about myself. Unfortunately, on January 1st all the excuses I made over the last three months are overcome with the premonition of spring and summer right around the corner. 
 
Like most people, my New Year’s resolution typically involves going to the gym or yelling at a picture of myself instead of eating. While one of those two things actually helps me, it can be hard to maintain since gym sessions take away serious time from your day. Like many people, I spend most of my day behind a computer at work or at school. While this isn’t exactly healthy, it provides some low-hanging fruit for improvements. If I can get healthier doing what I do for the majority of my time (sitting behind a computer at work and school), then maybe this will be the year that my New Year’s resolution actually gets resolved! 
 
I know what you’re thinking, “But esteemed blogger, how can I possibly make sitting being a computer from nine-to-five healthy?” Well say no more, the answers lie below.
 

1. Drink more water. The average desk-dweller tends to be deficient in hydration. To combat this, consider drinking at least three bottles of water in your work day while phasing out other forms of liquid intake such as energy drinks and soda. The benefits include increased hydration, less sugar, and more trips to the bathroom (which is a benefit because you move more on those trips, not because you’re getting paid to go!)

2. Maintain good posture. While this doesn’t exactly burn calories, it does reduce physical stress on your muscles and joints. Resulting in less fatigue and more energy for when you are actively burning calories! A stand-up desk might be the answer you’re looking for here. 

3. Pack a lunch and eat with a friend! Some studies have shown that eating in a group environment reduces your tendency to indulge. At the same time, packing a lunch will likely be cheaper and will allow you to meal prep so you don’t settle for something less healthy when lunchtime hits. Your wallet and stomach will grow at an inverse rate, so there’s even more incentive here!

4. Stretch at your desk. Just take a few minutes here and there to stand up and stretch. Like with good posture, stretching will help decrease fatigue and improve your circulation. 

5. Take a break! Getting out from behind your desk will really help your health thanks to the added movement. If you can’t go outside for a break because your boss won’t let you, or because it’s raining cats and dogs, at least follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This might not burn calories, but it is designed to reduce eye strain.

 

There are a plethora of other ways to improve your health while behind a desk. The key is movement wherever possible, proper intake, and reducing fatigue. For many people, like myself, spending eight hours a day behind a desk can really wear you down. However, by following these simple steps, you can make significant improvements by doing the little things. That’s what my New Year’s resolution is going to be all about. 
Post date: 201901