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Own Your Calendar to Own Your Life

Inspired by this week’s featured Reflection Weeks episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with our founder, Heidi Bartolotta, who believes in owning your calendar to own your life.  There is freedom in taking back your most finite resource: time. 


One of the perks of mentoring teens through some of their most tumultuous years is getting to be a first-hand witness to their astounding growth as they step into their identity and find their passion for life.  Their contagious energy is also wildly admirable (yes, I realize they sleep in absurd stretches of time, but have you seen what they juggle and accomplish when they are awake?!) and I often find myself thinking back to my own college days while drinking my third cup of coffee, “How do they do it? How did I do it?”

Quite simply, young adults are experts at time management (please suspend your disbelief, I can hear your cries of outrage echoing across the internet).   Really, it’s true.  Their schedules are every bit as demanding and filled to the brim as our own, but they have the hard-wired training and resources to manage all the moving pieces (with our guidance, chauffeuring, and financial support of course). They know the secrets many of us have forgotten when we left the world of 18 credit semesters and part-time jobs behind: the secrets of time blocking and a balanced calendar.  Here are six strategies you can begin implementing today to take back your calendar, and your time, to find freedom for fun and pursuing your passions.


Time Blocking

Unlike teens and university students, most of us don’t have dedicated and focused amounts of time (blocks) throughout our day for specific and similar tasks, like our ENGL 101 course. When we were students, whatever remained to be completed at the end of a class got put on the back burner while we focused our attention on the next block, and it didn’t come back to our mind until we hit our study block later that day.

Looking over your own calendar, begin by identifying all the daily tasks that are an essential and necessary part of your routine, both personally and professionally.  Group like tasks, and assign blocks of time to each.  Instead of living by a to-do list that will inevitably lead to burn out, with time blocking you focus your attention and energy on related tasks in a set period of time; what remains to be done, will remain to be done, and you move on to the next block.

Color Coding

Now that you’ve organized your calendar into blocks of time, designate each block with its corresponding color of your seven chakras.  This isn’t just some new age magic or an excuse to play with colorful pens, instead this technique allows you to see, visually, where your calendar and likely your life is out of alignment.  Each of your chakras corresponds to one of seven energy points in your body; if we’re trying to better manage our time, motivation, and energy, it would make sense to start from a point of reflection to achieve more synergy.

Here is just one way to approach this technique according to LinkedIn blogger John Rampton, “For example, because red is the root chakra symbolizing survival and safety, you would want to use that color for all work-related tasks.  For creative tasks, you might choose to use orange; yellow would represent the items that help you grow; green is reserved for personal events like lunch with a friend; blue equates to activities that express your mind like writing, and indigo is meant for activities that deserve your attention.”

E-mail

It’s a necessary part of doing business, and most parts of our modern lives.  If we don’t manage our e-mail, our avoidance of it will eventually manage us.  You have to commit time to organizing your personal and professional communication, and once you have a system in place, in order to maintain it, you need to give it its own block in your day.  We said we what we said, there is no way around it.  See Do It Yourselfbelow.

Eat the Frog

There’s a reason this time management technique took the business world by storm when it first debuted, and continues to do so.  According to Brian Tracy, the technique’s founder, when you tackle your Most Important Task of the day before you turn your attention to anything else, you can, “go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things are going to [go] all day long.”  Even science proves that our most productive and focused hours are in the morning, before other distractions and tasks consume our energy.

Determine when your “Power Hours” are and dedicate that Time Block to your biggest work frog each day; best to eat it before lunch so you can cleanse your palate as the day continues.

Schedule Everything

If it isn’t important enough to make it on your calendar, it probably doesn’t deserve one of your time blocks.  Conversely, there are aspects of our lives that are essential to our well-being and our soul’s nourishment; if these areas aren’t making it onto your calendar, you’re likely experiencing some alignment issues between your personal and professional life.  Just as you would schedule a block of time for meetings, schedule a block of time to take care of your physical and mental health, whatever that looks like for you. And, if you have a tendency to allow your work day to linger long into the evenings and time with your family and friends is continually being compromised, it’s time to begin scheduling an ‘Out of Office’ time as well.

Make yourself an optional list of ‘electives’ and ‘extra-curriculars’ you’d like to pursue if there are openings in your schedule, but that can also be the first things to be removed when your calendar begins to feel chaotic or life begins to feel unbalanced.  And perhaps the biggest challenge, dare we say it, begin to block open time into your day every single day that you can choose how to flexibly fill depending on what the day and your dreams demand

Do It Yourself

When you find the system, or systems, that work best for you, the most successful entrepreneurs have found that as soon as they begin to outsource their time management, they begin to outsource their control over their own life as well. Maintain your own calendar, reflect on it and refine it often, and share it with the people who it affects the most, but never outsource your schedule to someone else to plan for you.


Teens and young adults are exceptional at time-management because they have no other choice but to be.  When you own your calendar, you own your time and ultimately you own your life.  Fine tune this skill and achieve your personal and professional goals while also gaining better alignment and freedom with your most finite resource: time.

 

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Lions, and Tigers, and Digital Marketing, Oh My!

Inspired by this week’s Mom’s Making Six Figures Podcast episode with Holly Tillman, founder of Holly and Co., who is a creative marketing strategist, and communication professional helping to make marketing online well-known, simple, and available to everyone.


If you’re a business owner, there’s no denying the need to dip your toe into the pool of digital marketing to grow your reach.  But where do you even start, and what exactly is digital marketing? We’re here to break down the basics and help you to make the most of your marketing this summer by finally taking the plunge!


What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing refers to any form of marketing that utilizes an electronic device of the internet.  Marketing strategists, and business owners alike, use various platforms like search engines, social media, email, and websites to connect with their current and future customers.

Why should I use it/invest in it/hone my skills or my team’s skills for it?

  1. You can target a specific audience and tailor your marketing to be personalized to them.

Unlike traditional forms of marketing where you’re essentially taking a shot in the dark as to whether or not you’ll have a true ROI, digital marketing allows you to place the ads where your audience already exists, and tailor your content to them specifically.  For example, your LinkedIn audience and customer is likely very different, in a multitude of ways, than your Instagram audience and customer.  Digital marketing meets your clients where they already are!

  1. It’s more money in your marketing budget.

Due to its nature, digital marketing allows for real time data for you to track the success of your various campaigns and marketing endeavors.  If the money you’re investing isn’t yielding the results you’re expecting, you can divert those dollars into the platform that is giving you a significant ROI.

  1. No More David and Goliath

Or maybe more David and less Goliath, digital marketing levels the playing field of traditional forms of marketing.  Your reach as a small business owner can be just as impactful, if not more so than a large corporation, when you start a social media campaign with a handful of influencers who stand behind your product and your vision.

There are countless more benefits to developing a strategic digital marketing plan, and investing in its development.  Look at this helpful overview for more information: “The Who, What, Why & How of Digital Marketing” by Lucy Alexander.

Where do I even start?

If you’re still holding onto the wall of the pool, here is a helpful strategy to get you started in developing or evaluating your current Digital Marketing Plan.  Begin with a SWOT analysis; this framework allows you to evaluate your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats as a business before you begin making any plans.  Consider this the water safety course of swimming lessons.

SWOT Analysis from: we are marketing

What now?

If we’ve convinced you of the value of digital marketing and you believe in its ability to attract, convince and convert your customers and clients to fall in love with your product or service, now it’s time to make a plan and begin brainstorming your strategy.  Begin by establishing SMART goals for each of your Digital Marketing goals.  Ensure your goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound.

Now that you’ve taken the lay of the land using the SWOT analysis (your water safety course), and you have developed some SMART goals (you’ve let go of the wall and you are treading water beautifully), it may be time to call in additional resources and experts.

Here is a helpful, more in-depth guide to help you further develop your own digital marketing strategy by we are marketing, “A Step-By-Step Guide to Structuring a Digital Marketing Plan”.


If you came of age without your new sidekick of the Internet, and you can still remember the sound of AOL connecting with eerie clarity, you may be surprised to know that the internet is still growing in its audience consumption.  According to Pew Research, for the last three years in a row, adult usage of the internet continues to increase steadily by 5% each year.  Offline marketing just isn’t as effective as it used to be, and it certainly doesn’t bring the crowds to Open Swim hours; it’s time to leave the water wings behind and work on those strokes once and for all.  The best news? There are lifeguards and swim instructors to help you along the way.

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Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient is Key to Your Success Equation

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Brenda Lee, Emotional Intelligence Expert, who believes in the power of identifying our perspective and pushing through our conditional gaps to tap into our mind’s subconscious.


Part of the human experience is suffering.  And sadly many of us have experienced that suffering at the hands of another person in our lives, whether it’s the negative comments made by our father-in-law brushed off as ‘just his personality’, a boss who always asks us to stay late making our work-life balance that much harder to attain, or a poorly timed “friendly reminder” from the HOA about the state of our lawn, all of this suffering is imposed by and met with an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (or in the case of suffering’s worst offenders, the lack thereof).  And while we all know the old adage rings uncomfortably true, that we can’t control others, only ourselves, by improving our own EI (Emotional Intelligence) we will change our own perceptions of, and approaches to suffering, and model, for the less emotionally intelligent, the common denominator in the happiness and success equation.


The theory of EI was brought to the forefront of American psychology by Daniel Goleman in the 1990s.  While the concept was widely accepted in the field of psychology, employers were reluctant to embrace EI in the workplace.  Now, however, research has found that emotional intelligence is not only foundational to achieving personal happiness and success, but that it is also the strongest predictor of workplace effectiveness.

Here are the five key components of Emotional Intelligence, how to improve your skill set in each, and how each component, when put into practice, can benefit your personal and professional life.

Self-awareness

Individuals who are self-aware can identify their emotions and the impact of those emotions on their thoughts and behavior; they know their strengths and weaknesses and have self-confidence.

  • Keep a journal— Journals help to improve your self-awareness. Spending just a few minutes each day recording your thoughts can begin to move you toward greater self-awareness.
  • + The pay-off: Your mental health. Uncontrolled and unaddressed emotions and stress can take a toll on your mental health.  Learning to understand, identify and get comfortable with your emotions in order to manage them will help you to improve both your relationship with yourself and others, thereby leaving you feeling less lonely and isolated.

Self-regulation

Individuals who are able to self-regulate can manage their emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments and adapt to changing circumstances; they can control impulsive feelings and behaviors.

  • Hold yourself accountable— Easier said than done, but if you have a tendency to blame shift, it’s time to take some ownership. Make a commitment to, and a habit of, admitting your mistakes, and accepting the consequences.  You will have more respect for yourself, and quickly earn the respect of those around you.
  • + The pay-off: When you understand your emotions and you are capable of controlling them, you’re better able to express how you feel and to understand how others are feeling. This improves your communication and will allow you to establish stronger relationships both at work and at home.

Motivation

Individuals who are self-motivated work consistently toward their goals and have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.

Empathy

Individuals who have a strong capacity for empathy understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of others; they pick up on emotional cues.

  • Pay attention to your body language— An often underrated, but hugely important facet of how others perceive us, perceiving them, is our body language. Learn to control your own body language to prove you are someone who is truly empathetic and open, and learn to read others’ body language to get an accurate read of how someone truly feels.
  • + The pay-off: By investing time and effort to really pay attention to others, you’ll actually gain insight into your own emotional state as well as your values and beliefs. When we pay attention to others, their needs, and their overall well-being, we foster safety and establish trust in our relationship.

Social Skills

Individuals who possess strong social skills can maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team and manage conflict; they recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.

  • Learn conflict resolution— No one likes conflict, but it is inevitable. Knowing how to manage conflict and to successfully resolve it is essential to honing your social skills and finding success in both your personal and professional endeavors.
  • + The pay-off: When you are in tune with your emotions you are better able to connect to other people and the world around you. Your emotional intelligence directly correlates to your social intelligence; the greater your social intelligence the more your stress will be reduced and the more balanced your nervous system will be through social communication leaving you feeling loved and happy.

While suffering is a part of the human experience, it doesn’t have to define it.  When we take the time to invest in our own emotional intelligence, we benefit not only our own happiness and success, but we also become a multiplier in the lives of those around us.  By taking ownership over our own progress at home and in the workplace, we can reduce our own suffering and the suffering experienced and imposed by others.  The work is worth putting in for the reward, as psychologist Travis Bradberry notes, when M.B.A. students received emotional intelligence training (not a usual part of the M.B.A. program), “even after graduating from the program [they] had raised their [emotional intelligence] scores 40 percent.  They had trained their brains.  Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice make things habitual.”

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Kindness Deserves a Seat at the Table, Whether in the Kitchen or the Boardroom

One of the unspoken challenges of working from home, working remotely, or working largely in isolation is the lack of authentic opportunities for social interactions with colleagues, management, and our professional tribe.  Many of us are seeing the lines of our home life and work life blur for the first time due to the pandemic, juggling the demands of childcare and Zoom meetings, and our working hours stretching late into the evening.  Our carefully established boundaries, routines and life as normal have been uprooted and our aptitude for kindness is essentially non-existent, all while our appetite for human connection becomes nearly insatiable.  We turn to social media to replace our face-to-face connections, which only furthers our inner turmoil and loneliness in a culture that seems to value division over unity with Keyboard Karen’s lurking in the shadows ready to add their vindictive two-cents to any, and every, post.  Is it any wonder that we have lost touch with one of the greatest attributes we can embody and the windfall of benefits therein?  It’s time to adapt to our new normal and to begin sprinkling kindness like confetti once again.


The Windfall of Benefits

With opportunities for ‘praise in passing’ limited by the pandemic, it is important to recognize the tangible benefits of kindness in the workplace.  A yearlong compilation of surveys conducted by Gallup found that recognition at work could help to, “reduce employee burnout and absenteeism, and improves employee well-being.”  Decades of research show that seemingly simplistic gestures like offering a compliment, words of recognition, and praise can help individuals to feel, “more fulfilled, boost their self-esteem, improve their self-evaluations, and trigger positive emotions.”  The affirmation offered by praise confirms our self-worth and contributes to our positive view of ourselves.

Next, the act of being kind contributes to our perceived sense of life’s meaningfulness.  When we are kind to others, it confirms our belief that there is more to life than ourselves.  These acts of kindness also change the way we see ourselves, as our reputation and esteem in the mind of others is improved.  We assess ourselves based on our behavior, so when we are kind to others we view ourselves as kind people, and therefore a good person.

Finally, giving to others makes us even happier than receiving from others.  In various studies, participants who complimented one another found that giving the compliment made them even happier than receiving one.  Compliments may seem trite, but the psychological steps taken to construe and offer a compliment are much deeper.  When we give a genuine compliment it requires us to,  “think about someone else—their mental state, behavior, personality, thoughts, and feelings.”  Thinking about others is a necessary step in feeling connected to them.  And this human connection, that we’ve all been desperately seeking throughout the pandemic, can lead to enhanced positivity in relationships ultimately driving our own happiness forward.

Bringing Kindness Back to the Workplace (Even If It’s Remote)

In order to create a culture of generosity and kindness within an organization, it is imperative that leadership leads by example. “By giving compliments and praising their employees, leaders are likely to motivate team members to copy their behavior and create norms of kindness in teams.”

Next, leaders can establish a time during Zoom meetings for a “kindness round”, close a call with an opportunity for employees to acknowledge each other’s work, or encourage a weekly “bright spot” submission in the weekly meeting notes.  Just a few moments taken out of the norm can have significant impacts on moral and social connection.  The key is consistency and an opportunity for peers to recognize one another publicly.

Finally, small spot bonuses, or tokens of appreciation, even if it’s ‘just’ a gift card for coffee or a thoughtful e-mail, can trigger the same psychological benefits of large acts of kindness without significant expense.


While we are busy switching loads of laundry, and prepping dinner between e-mails and Zoom calls, it can be easy to dismiss acts of kindness as frivolous.  But, if we can pencil in one small gesture of kindness a week, or a day for our colleagues, management and professional tribe, the overwhelming minutia of survival mode can begin to look a bit more like thriving for ourselves and others.  Our children are our best examples of unencumbered kindness, offering a hand picked dandelion, a smile to a stranger, or the last bite of their prized dessert.  Let’s become a bit more childlike and a lot less jaded; the world needs more kindness than Karen’s.

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Why Communication Skills Matter & How to Improve Them

No matter your background, effective communication is an important life skill that everyone needs. Whether it’s a backyard BBQ, family dinner, or departmental meeting, without strong communication skills, it’s difficult to get your point across effectively. And when communication falls short, it’s usually not pretty!

Whether you’re a new mom just back from maternity leave and still trying to recover from the sleepless newborn phase or a corporate veteran 15 years in, your communication skills could likely use some brushing up. Wherever you are in your life or career, it’s important to stop occasionally to evaluate whether your communication methods have been holding you back.

Keep in mind that communication changes as society and technology evolves. The way we communicate now is definitely not the same as it was ten years ago—texting, Instagram, and Slack (to mention a few!) have changed the face of communication. Plus, your communication methods change depending on the environment you’re in. If you’re like me and you left the corporate world behind to be your own boss, you’ll likely need to switch it up a little now that you’re representing your own brand instead of working for someone else.

No matter your situation or goals, here are my 5 go-to tips for improving your communication skills.

1. Prepare in Advance – Even for Small Talk!

If you’re delivering a presentation, make sure to plan out what you’re going to say. That said, you can also prepare for small talk. We can’t avoid it, so we might as well have a blueprint ready for those potentially awkward situations!

You may find yourself with parents you hardly know at a PTA meeting or with coworkers in the boardroom waiting for the meeting to start. Rather than staring awkwardly at the ceiling, have some “small talk” questions or topics ready to go, from asking about their weekend to sharing a funny anecdote.

2. Read

Communication isn’t always verbal. Reading different kinds of material—from the newspaper, to magazine articles, to novels, to motivational books—will expose you to the different ways people write, speak, and generally present information. In turn, you’ll slowly start to expand and diversify your own communication methods.

So the more your read, the better your communication will be!

3. Listen to Understand

Many of us have become trained to listen to respond instead of listening to understand what the other person is saying or where they’re coming from. During a conversation, focus on actively listening instead of immediately going on the defense and preparing your response. Try these techniques to guide this process:

Don’t speak over the other person. This shows disrespect and gives the impression that what you have to say is more important. Everyone wants to be heard.
Ask questions if anything is unclear. This will help avoid misunderstandings.
Don’t do anything else while the other person is talking. This will show that you’re truly listening. It means not checking your cell phone or watch, walking into the other room to grab something, flipping on the TV, etc. STOP what you’re doing and give your full attention to the speaker.
Schedule another time to talk if needed. If it’s really not a good time for you, agree on another time to speak with them instead of giving them half of your attention.

4. Be Mindful of Body Language

Did you know that body language accounts for 55% of communication? The second most important aspect of communication is our tone of voice, accounting for 38%, while the actual words we speak make up a mere 7% of our communication.

This means that a person’s body language says a lot more than their actual words do. Say you’re in a job interview: your responses aren’t the only thing that matter—your posture and gestures are just as important. Making eye contact and not crossing your arms are some simple ways to exhibit more positive body language.

We also need to be mindful of other people’s body language: They might say one thing but mean something else entirely. Paying attention to others’ body language might help clue you in to how they’re really feeling about the conversation.

5. Validate

Everyone wants to be heard. Take the conversation a step further by validating the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything they say, but acknowledging what they have expressed goes a long way to ensure effective communication.

Essentially, you’re reassuring them that they’ve been heard and understood.

Brushing Up Your Communication Skills: Practice Makes Perfect

As our lives and situations change, we must constantly evolve and adapt. The more conscious you are of your communication, the more it will improve!