Who’s the Boss?

Business to consumer (B2C) relationships can be one of the most complex relationships to have. Unlike personal relationships which have a foundation of emotional attachment, history and mutual understanding, B2C relationships are very temperamental and customers can easily find other “fish in the sea”.
In business, you should always try your best to accommodate the customers’ needs. In fact, this is a critical step in business relationship building. However, accommodating customers has its boundaries. You shouldn’t do anything that would compromise the integrity, security or financial strength of your company. So although you may occasionally bend the rules to accommodate a customer, you should never break the rules completely.
Sometimes you have to show a customer who’s the boss in a very polite, yet assertive way.  Your primary goal is to maintain a successful business while helping your customers understand, that although you want their business, they have to respect yours. Here are a few tips for showing your customers who’s the boss:
1. Create policies and procedures then publicize them and enforce them: Taking the time to create guidelines for how your business will be operated is not only a good practice, but it will save you a lot of hassle when it’s time to apply the rules to a situation. If a customer is well-informed of the guidelines in doing business with you, they are more likely to stay within certain boundaries and respect your decision to enforce the rules.
2. Don’t negotiate too much: Sometimes when you give a customer an inch, they’ll take a mile, which means that if you give them a little wiggle room with the rules, they tend to bend those rules consistently. Remind customers of your terms and conditions when negotiating a deal. Make sure they understand that although you may be negotiating or making an exception this one time, your policies remain in tact and the exception can not be applied to all transactions.
3. Be friendly and firm: Always apply rules of customer service to every business dealing or interaction. However, don’t be so courteous that you are taken advantage of, or worse, you aren’t taken seriously. Customers should respect and appreciate your service at all times– regardless if there are rules they don’t like. So although you may share a laugh, open up a bit or get to know your customer, remember business rules come first!
4. Don’t let a customer’s concerns fall on deaf ears: Being the boss doesn’t mean you shouldn’t empathize with your customers. In fact, simply listening to your customers gives them a feeling of appreciation. Hear their concerns regarding your business because their points may be valuable to your continued success. Additionally, if a customer is having difficulty adhering to your policies and procedures, listen to their explanations. Sometimes customers need to vent before they accept the rules.
5. Make an executive decision: You know what’s best when it comes to your business. You know when to bend the rules, when to enforce them or even when to change them altogether. Remember this is a business relationship, not a dictatorship. So although you may be compelled to make a big decision that impacts customer relationships, keep in mind that rules or processes which are too stringent could backfire and cause additional problems.

These are just a few tips on letting a customer know who’s the boss. For additional tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

Advertisements

The Art of Bartering

Bartering is an age old solution for people to get what they need, but also offer something of value in return. When bartering is effective, two sets of people are pleased with what they receive and are equally as pleased to offer their goods.
In business, bartering is one of the quickest ways to make solid connections, build relationships and decrease your expenditures. A business can barter services, products or even time– all depending on what its needs are.

Solid bartering relationships are based on two key factors. First, you should only barter for things you actually want or need. And secondly, the exchanges should be of equal value and importance. Thus, bartering a vacation to Europe for a year’s worth of basic office supplies may not be a favorable barter.
Here are a few strategies for creating a solid bartering strategy:
1. Know what your needs and wants are— Create a list of your regular business needs and wants which you wouldn’t mind bartering for. Avoid listing services or items that are critical to your productivity or general success because those things should never be bartered. Instead, list things such as courier services, meeting space or vouchers for entertainment activities that you can pass along to clients. Knowing what your business can actually benefit from allows you to make better decisions on whether or not to accept a barter proposal.
2. Understand the real value of your barter— When you’re entering into a barter agreement, one of the most important things to consider is the value of the services or products rendered or received. It’s very easy to assign a price to an item, but it doesn’t make it of value to you or the other bartering party. Know the value of the exchange. Will bartering this item save you time or money? Will it create better opportunities? Will it improve a situation? These are things you should give hefty evaluation to before entering into a bartering agreement.
3. State your contingency plan— It’s dreadful when you’ve entered into a bartering agreement and the other party doesn’t fulfill their role–especially when you’ve fulfilled yours. Make the other person aware of the contingency of your bartering agreement with clear outputs for each party. Perhaps you’d state that for every 5 restaurant vouchers you receive from the other party, you’d provide 5 hours of event space in your facility. The contingency in this agreement is that 5 hours of space would be scheduled in advance, but can not be confirmed until the vouchers are received at least 48 hours before the event takes place. This contingency option gives both of the parties the option of canceling or rearranging their offerings without compromising the agreement.
4. Keep accurate records--Barter agreements should be treated like a regular payment transaction or business deal. Keep receipts of your activity within the agreement to ensure that both parties are receiving a fair exchange.
5. Put your money where your barter is— If you have a concern with a full barter agreement, consider a partial barter agreement. Offer certain products, services or phases of a project under a barter and then agree to exchange cash for the rest. In this method, neither party overextends their resources, whether it’s time, money, space or otherwise. Just make sure to state those terms at the beginning of the barter agreement and clearly state what is covered under the exchange and when financial payment should be expected.

These are just a few tips on creating a successful barter agreement. For more tips, please contact me. Do you have a few tips of your own? Please share them. I’d like to have your feedback.

Do you understand what I’m saying?

There will be countless times in your professional relationships that you will be required to convey a message to a group of people. It will be critical that your message is detailed, clear and to the point so that your message is comprehensive and well-received.
Equally as important, you want your audience to make a decision on what to do with the information you share with them. In order to do this effectively, you must convey your messages properly.
A strong message creates a call to action for the reader or listener. They should feel compelled to make a decision based on the information you’ve presented and the energy behind that message.
Whether written or verbal, your statements should help shape the actions of your audience. Your message should be easily understood and have the ability to be correctly interpreted and shared with others. Here are a few tips on conveying your messages:
1)Know what you’re talking about: Clear messages are delivered when the speaker is knowledgeable about their topic. This instills confidence in the speaker and brings a level of confidence in their delivery of the message. Additionally, if the speaker is also passionate about what they’re saying, the message is informative AND and energetic. Make sure before you deliver any message, whether written or verbal, that you not only know what you’re discussing, but that you care about it as well. This step will help produce better audience engagement.
2) Written and verbal outlines are key: Sticking to the point and being concise is critical in delivering comprehensive messages. Resist your urge to create multiple anecdotes, over explain or toggle between topics by creating an outline. Know the most important points you want to discuss and then decide what information must be discussed within those topics (most likely the 5 W’s– who, what, when, where and why). This method will ensure that your message, whether verbal or written, will make sense, stay on topic and produce a productive conversation.
3) Test the level of engagement during the conversation: A true measure of determining if your audience is receptive of your message is to test their engagement. In verbal conversations, asking questions at certain points will help you determine who’s listening and the general tone of the audience. Head nods, smiles, or other reaffirming body language shows that your message is understood. Uncomfortable movements, folded shoulders or the resting of a chin on the hand can indicate that tour audience is bored, unresponsive or not pleased with tour message or its delivery. When writing your message, check engagement in the same manner by asking questions. However, since you obviously can’t read body language, substitute it with call-to-action phrases. Ask your reader to try something, visit a website or some other tangible measure which allows you to test track their engagement.
4) Get the audience involved: Although audience participation can be uncomfortable, it generally breaks the ice and makes people pay attention. If you can get people in the audience to play a role in your message such as taking notes on an easel, distributing literature during your delivery, taking requests for questions or feedback, assembling teams, etc., it puts the audience in charge of their engagement and making sure they understand your message. Think of it this way, if your message is clear, your audience members will be able to follow instructions regarding their participation and actively become involved in making sure others understand the message as well.
5) Follow up effectively: Performing all of the above steps will definitely produce an outcome. But how do you know if the outcome is favorable? Follow up! Ask questions via surveys, polls, one-on-one meetings or any other method which allows you to solicit feedback. You won’t know how clear your message was or how engaged your audience was unless you ask. Try to do this within 24 hours of delivering a message, otherwise you could have fewer response results because your audience has moved on.

These are just a few tips for delivering clear messages. For more detailed tips, contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

There’s no “I” in Team

 

We’ve heard it all before– there’s no “I” in team. But how should business owners and professionals apply this cliché to their staff? It’s essential to understand that business is about collaboration- whether it’s B2B, B2C or internal. If you can’t create a solid team that is unified with one mission and a strategy to meet it, then how much success can you realistically expect?

Sometimes it seems easier to let one person carry the load or assign a task to one exceptional staffer. However, taking this route not only creates a sense of “favoritism” or isolation, but it also impedes the progress for growth within an organization. Utilizing your staff’s strengths and abilities is a great way to complete projects more accurately, prevent overwhelming your staff members and learn more about who can contribute in a time of need. Although you hire people to fulfill specific roles, allowing them to be a part of a team and work in a different capacity can build morale and open doors to new opportunities for you and your employees. So, although you may be tempted to delegate to one person, or even manage the task on your own, use your team to get the job done.  Here are a few tips on building a team and delegating responsibly:

1) Add variety in your team— A good team should have people that come from different professional backgrounds. This way, everyone can contribute to the team with their own expertise and strengths. Ask each person on your team to list their top strengths and their top weaknesses. Match this information to the requirements of your project to determine which person should handle a specific responsibility.
2) Make collaboration mandatory— If your team doesn’t know that they are required to work together, chances are they just won’t work together. Make it known that each team member is required to pull their own weight, but they’re also required to build project-based relationships with others. Just make sure you find the right balance between being an enforcer and wanting team spirit.  As a courtesy, have an open-door policy for people who don’t want to be a part of the team to feel comfortable expressing why. Their hesitation to play a role in the team’s success could be valid, in which case, re-evaluating a team member’s contribution may be necessary.
3) Create benchmarks for individual members: How will you know if every member is playing their part? Benchmarks! Establish a few deliverables at different intervals of the project that require your team members to prove that they are contributing towards the project’s success. The benchmarks don’t have to be huge, but it should be a recognizable effort or output that shows collaboration and progress.
4) Set rules: The most successful path from Point A to Point B involves adherence to some rules. Projects can get messy. You have egos, and slackers, deadlines, budgets and frustrations. The best way to get through any of this is with rules that promote motivation to get through the project. Create rules that enforce respect and togetherness, but also promote creativity, a comfortable environment, group activities and breaks.
5) Reward the team and the individuals— No matter if the project succeeds or fails, multiple people tried their hardest to get it off of the drawing board and they should be appreciated for their effort. Reward your team with an early dismissal, treat them to lunch, give them awards or something that lets them know that you appreciate their hard work and you would like to work with them again.

These are just a few tips on getting people to collaborate respectively in teams. For more tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

Bouncing Back from Rejection

Who knew two little letters could cause so much grief? Hearing the word “no” probably evokes the worst feeling, especially when it comes to a matter that was of extreme value to you. Perhaps you were pitching a new idea to your colleagues, asking for a raise or trying to close a sales deal. Rejection and the accompanying sentiment is enough to make you evaluate your skills, growth and sometimes, even your worth.
It’s important to remember that rejection is an important part of the growth and accomplishment processes. The word “no” provides you with the opportunity to re-evaluate and revise your approach to a situation. It also requires you to hone in on strengths and techniques that you may have overlooked or even dismissed initially. “No is a transitional word that demands that you persevere. Here are some tips to help you bounce back from the word  “no”:

1) “No” is not never— Rejection is temporary. In fact, as much as you were hoping for a “yes”, you only have a 50% shot of getting that answer. Think of it this way, no is not definite. It can also mean, not yet or maybe after a few improvements have been made. Don’t allow those two little letters to deter you from continuously pursuing your target. Who knows?  Your “yes” could simply require one more try.

2) Don’t shoot the messenger— Although the person bearing the bad news is just as discouraging as their negative response, remember, they are still a powerful tool in your success. So reconsider your thoughts about lashing out at them. Instead, ask them to give you feedback on improving your chances for next time. Figure out if they can help you achieve your goals through a stringent evaluation, constructive criticism, successful examples or even a point in the right direction. The messenger may have the information you need in order to get past “no”.

3) Narrow your focus— Sometimes “no” is the result of the wrong approach or the wrong focus. If you’re not completely qualified or capable of handling a task, you may be setting yourself up for failure in the first place. Make sure your target is aligned with your capabilities. As bold as you may be to pursue something out of your reach, you may actually be pushing it further away. Try narrowing your focus with your pitch– no matter what you’re pitching about– this should help you pursue the best opportunities that bring you more positive results.

4) Dust yourself off— Don’t wallow in self-pity. No can be a harsh word, but self-pity can make the sting last longer than it should. After receiving rejection, allow some time for it to settle in, vent appropriately, then dust yourself off and try again. You’re going to face a decent amount of rejection in your lifetime– even with tasks that you thought you were surefire to win.  It’s okay.  Don’t beat yourself up about it. Be willing to give anything you really want another shot.

These are just a few tips on dealing with rejection. For more tips, please contact me. Do you have ideas of your own? Please share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

Turn a Compliment into a Customer

As a business owner, you know that customer satisfaction is an essential part of keeping your doors open. Compliments on your product, service or general operation mean that you are meeting the needs of your market and you’ve probably got customers spreading the word for you. However, an abundance of compliments does not necessarily create an abundance of sales. In which case, a gold star for effort may not pay for your expenses.
It’s important that business owners take charge of a compliment and don’t treat it passively. Compliments are direct, qualified leads for a new opportunity to  create revenue. Here are some tips for turning a compliment into a sale:
1) Acknowledge the compliment beyond “Thank You”: Every compliment deserves a polite response, but it shouldn’t stop there. This is the beginning of  transitioning to a sale. Discuss details about the compliment such as what the ingredients are, how it’s made, where it comes from or a brief history about its concept. This will engage the lead and identify any pain points, which is critical in closing a sale.
2) Reverse the compliment:  Reversing the compliment means noticing a pain point, tying it to the compliment and identifying a value in using the product or service. For instance, if you make shirts and a woman compliments you, reversing the compliment would mean: “Thanks for noticing! It’s handmade from organic cotton and non-toxic dye. In fact, those jeans you’re wearing would look amazing with this shirt.” This is a tricky step. But if it’s done correctly, it’ll decrease the gap between a compliment and a sale.

3) Discuss other products or services that are related to the compliment: If you’ve got a full offering of inventory, the person who is complimenting you should be made aware of it. Don’t be cold about it and pull out brochures, refer them to a website or leave them with a business card (just yet). Transitioning a compliment is about building rapport. In the above example of the shirt maker, talk about the dresses, pants or accessories you make as well. Give your potential customer an option of “yesses” to pique their interest and open up about what they may be looking for. If you don’t offer the product or service now, perhaps you could customize an order for them or at least maintain a warm lead for the future.

4) Do some undercover research: When a customer or a lead compliments you, ask them why they like it. You’re looking for details about the product or service that could help you develop new strategies for advertising, sales, production and customer support. Of course, you shouldn’t divulge why you’re asking. Remember, this is a conversation, not a focus group. Keep the questions light and simple. In the instance of the shirt maker, you may ask, “So are you into organically made clothing?”

5) KIT: Keep in Touch– If you can’t close the sale directly after a compliment, make sure you follow-up with the lead. Exchange business cards and tentatively schedule a follow-up or invite them to an upcoming event regarding your company. Maintain a warm lead  by keeping them actively interested in what you offer. Exchanging email or business cards is not enough because those methods can become stale. The compliment is the bait and the effective follow-up is the hook.

These are just a few tips on turning a compliment into a sale. For more tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them. I’d love to have your feedback.

You’ve made a BIG mistake!

                                                                            Photo courtesy of thecoolwind.info

Mistakes happen everywhere, but in business, when a mistake happens it can cause system malfunctions, product recalls, brand crises and ultimately revenue decreases. These mistakes cause panic. However, it’s important to remember that mistakes are still a process in the way we learn. If we don’t accidentally do something wrong, how can we ensure to do something right? It is inevitable that a colleague or staff member will make a mistake that costs you time, money or resources. You may become frustrated having to report the mishap to a superior or possibly deal with the consequences on your own. But remember, you’re a part of a team and at one point or another, everyone will have their share of taking the blame or causing the mistake.
No matter the error, there are proper ways to deal with a mistake so that it is treated as a lesson well learned versus a an irreparable flaw. Here are a few tips:
1) Admire before you admonish: Take a moment to tell the person at least one positive thing related to their mistake. After you’ve genuinely discussed their effort and contribution, outline the mistake and what has happened as a result of the mistake. For instance, “Mary, you did a great job enlisting the team on this project. Everyone talked about your enthusiasm and willingness to assist them during this long process. I appreciate your effort. However, the client has stated that you omitted their updated contact information and slogan. As a result, they are asking us to redesign a new campaign in less than 24 hours for free. We have to accommodate this request.”

2) Ask why the mistake may have happened: The best way to revise a strategy is to figure out what went wrong in the first place. Ask questions that don’t directly place blame on a person; uncover their reasoning or oversight instead. The mistake may have been completely out of their control. In which case, fixing the problem may involve other people or resources. For instance, “Mary, would you happen to know why the updated contact information was omitted?” The reason could be because the client sent the information after a critical deadline. This would change the situation drastically.

3) Allow the person to accept the mistake: Most people feel bad when they’ve made a mistake. So don’t rush into scolding them or creating a hostile situation. Let them be forthcoming with information that may not only create a resolution, but helps them deal with the embarrassment, shock or consequences.

4) Allow the person to reject the mistake: Most people who honestly feel they are not at fault for a mistake, will openly reject any association with the blame. Allow them to express what they feel has happened and work with them to discover facts about the situation. If they are not at blame, offer a sincere apology and follow-up with them to let them know the status (not details) of the situation. If they are, in fact, at fault show them how you’ve come to the conclusion.

5) Give them an opportunity to assist with correcting the mistake: Putting someone “in charge” of their mistake allows them to accept responsibility to fix the mistake as well. Pulling from their strengths and understanding of what went wrong, work together to develop a strategy to resolve the issue. Create an open door policy to facilitate feedback and discuss progress or concerns as they work to fix the problem. Don’t forget to congratulate them after the mistake has been successfully corrected.

 

These are just a few tips for dealing with a mistake. For other tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to have your feedback.

Is your staff loyal to you?

 

Your company has a mission. You need to provide a stellar product or service to your customers in a timely manner and with little to no error. Additionally, you need to meet certain revenue goals in order to successfully remain in business. Business owners and executives understand and appreciate this type of focus when it comes to the daily operation of an organization. But what about employees? How often is a regular employee excited to help its employer excel?
When it gets down to it, most employees remain loyal to a company because their livelihood is attached to it. Quite frankly, steady paychecks may make up for the fulfillment they lack in their regular job duties. And yes, there are plenty of examples of employees who are committed to their job because they genuinely like what they do. However, neither of these instances relate to their commitment to your organization. If they could earn money or have their dream career elsewhere, there’s a good chance they could jump ship on your company at any time.
Building employee loyalty takes the right consistency  of effort from an organization’s leaders. Here are a few tips you can use on a regular basis to incite loyalty from your employees:

1) Incorporate their passion into their job duties: Your employees are multi-talented. Their professional capabilities extend beyond what they were hired to do. Take time to learn about what your staff’s’ hobbies are and come up with creative (and meaningful) ways to bring their true passion to their job or workplace in general. For instance, if your Administrative Assistant is  very passionate about baking, perhaps you can ask her to bake something for the next departmental meeting. The compliments and conversations she’ll get from her peers will add more pep to her step and get her more excited about preparing for and attending the next meeting.
2) Regularly provide development opportunities: An employee who feels he/she can’t grow is most likely wasting their time and yours. Most people thrive from knowing there are possibilities to advance.  You can provide these possibilities by adding courses, events and activities to an employee’s core requirements in their job description. Employees can participate in mentoring or shadowing programs, learn a new software or sit in on meetings to provide input or valuable information. Challenge your employees to better themselves. Your company will reap the benefits.
3) Recharge them during the day: 8 hours sitting in front of a computer or performing the same task repeatedly is enough to make anyone sluggish or lackadaisical. Offer recharging “stations” throughout the office filled with healthy snacks, fun but challenging toys (rubik’s cube anyone?), magazines or even a laptop full of music that they can download to their iPods. These quick breaks can revitalize your staff and also provide them with an opportunity to mingle with their peers, productively let off some steam and get geared to face the rest of their day.
4) Ask for their input and actually do something with it: When you ask an employee’s opinion, you shouldn’t do it out of obligation. You should genuinely care about what they’re saying about your business, products and workplace. Engage in an informal conversation about their opinions on the happenings and practices within the organization and follow-up with them to let them know you’re considering what they’ve said. You never know, their opinion could be your next million-dollar strategy. You don’t have to be have an MBA to have a great sense of business.
5) Interview them…again: Things and people change frequently. Some of your employees may be rapidly outgrowing their positions, while others are struggling to keep up. Make it a point to re-interview your employees to evaluate their satisfaction and adjustments within their current role. Don’t be too formal because it can come across as an employee having to compete to keep their job. Simply talk with them using some of the questions you may have asked during their initial interview. Note their comfort with their role, concerns they may have and accomplishment’s they’ve made. This will help you determine any necessary changes you may need to make to improve the chances of retaining a good employee.

These are just a few tips on how to create a loyal relationship with your employees. For more tips on this topic, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to have your feedback.

Hey, are you ignoring me?!

How many times have you proposed an idea, requested information, tentatively scheduled a date or been promised a return phone call? And of those instances, how many times have you been left hanging? There’s a good chance that at least 50% of the time you’re waiting for an update on a matter of importance, you’re left in the dark. Besides negligence on the other person’s behalf, the reason you may not be getting any results from your “call to action” is because you’re not practicing effective follow-up.
There’s an art to effective follow-up that dances on the line between assertive and overbearing. So be cautious that you’re not hounding someone. Instead, let them know that you’re serious about receiving valuable feedback. There are methods you can use to practice strong follow-up. Here are a few tips:

 1) Confirm a date to check in within your initial proposal: If you tell someone ahead of time that you’ll be checking up with them on a specific date and time, they can better prepare their feedback. For example, you can say “Hey Bill, let’s talk about your input Friday at 1pm. This gives you a few days to become familiar with everything and think of some questions you may have.” You can email a meeting reminder so the other person can schedule accordingly. Stick to this time! If you wind up rescheduling or not acting on your proposed time, you risk loosing traction and getting any results.

2) Value the other person’s time: Your priorities may not be priority for someone else. It’s important that you keep this in mind when requesting and waiting for follow-up. Although you’re thinking 10 minutes should be reasonable time for someone to respond to an urgent matter, the other person may be thinking 24 hours is reasonable. So wait 24 hours for some type of response before doing any follow-up. You want to be effective, not annoying.
3) Limit the back and forth: Sometimes solid connections and feedback get lost in several chains of emails, phone tag and rescheduled meetings. Eliminate the back and forth by gradually progressing your follow-up. Email your request, then call to check in. Schedule an in-person meeting (with all of the resources and materials you need in order to prevent ineffective meetings) then make a final phone call to seal the deal (if you haven’t done so at the in-person meeting). Effective follow-up is all about progressing your status.
4) Sometimes your answer is “NO: We can’t control the final outcome of someone’s input. Perhaps you’ve done everything correctly and you’re good at what you do. That doesn’t mean that your follow up will always result in a “yes” answer. However, be sure to ask what you could do differently to improve your chances for next time.
5) Suggest someone else to handle the task: If the person you’re trying to connect with says (or shows signs of) being too busy, ask if you can include someone else in the conversation. Don’t step on their toes by excluding them or going around them. Simply ask if they can include a team member who would help to get the ball rolling. For instance, if you’re planning a meeting and the director is to busy to provide input, suggest getting the assistant and project manager involved. Everyone is welcomed to chime in and now you have a team of people working on your request.

These are just a few tips for improving your results from follow-up. For more tips, please contact me. Do you have follow-up tips that work for you? Share them! I’d like to have your feedback.

A Plan to Succeed

How to develop the ultimate to-do list

Planning is an essential part of getting the most from any task or goal. This is especially true for running a business, charting a professional path or managing a project. Planning, although initially time consuming, allows you to dissect a situation, prepare each step and monitor the growth and development of your goal.
When it comes to planning, the number one strategy is to use a to-do list. A to-do list normally outlines a number of tasks to be achieved in a specified time frame. The great thing about to-do lists is that you can reference them to determine your progress. However, if your list doesn’t provide you with a brief but detailed path to an end-result, you may end up with a dysfunctional course or unreachable goals.
A highly functional to-do list can contain a few elements to keep your momentum going and gage your success with a task. Here are a few tips about creating a meaningful to-do list for your next project, task or schedule:

1) Decide what your ultimate goal is: You can create a bunch of tasks that have no relationship to each other. That’s not a to-do list. That’s a regular list or an act of brainstorming. An effective to-do list should be tied to an objective and should be quantifiable such as “Get 100 registrants to XYZ event” or “Get 5 new clients from my sales presentations”. Defining your end result first will help you create a list of actions that are designed to help you achieve your goal.
2) Time should be of the essence: Every goal is tied to a time frame. Otherwise, you could spend days, weeks or even longer trying to achieve something. Put a time stamp on your goal, but make sure it’s realistic. If your goal is “to get 100 registrants to XYZ event” and you’d like that to happen in 2 hours, is that realistic? If you limit your opportunity to achieve a goal, you’re going to frustrate yourself and determine the goal to be unreachable. That’s counter-effective planning. Give yourself wiggle room, but put a definite (short-term) end to a solution.
3) Gather your materials: You can’t possibly achieve a goal within a specific time frame without having everything you need. Make a list of essential items that aid in getting the task done. If your goal is “To get 100 registrants to the XYZ event in two weeks”, what materials would help you achieve this goal? Materials could include technology, printed items, people, resources, personal items, etc. List only what you absolutely need to get the job done.
4) Figure out your priorities: Some lists can go on and on with action items. Some lists have tasks that can be reserved for later goals. Make sure your list contains action items that are critical elements in achieving your immediate goal.
A trick in establishing a priority item is
a) Can this goal be achieved if I omit this task from my list? (Your answer should be NO)
b) If I don’t start this right now, will it prevent me from reaching my goal? (Your answer should be YES)
c) Can I get this done with a few simple steps or in a short period of time? (Your answer should be YES)
d) Will doing this task free up additional time or resources? (Your answer should be YES)
e) Do I need to wait on other people to get this done?  (Your answer should be NO)
5) Proceed with enthusiasm: Once you have a goal, a time frame, a list of materials and your priorities are in order, you should eagerly pursue your goals. There’s no need for trepidation or wondering if you’ll achieve everything on your list. If you face your tasks with an optimism about achieving the bigger goal, you’ll have all of the momentum needed to accompany a well-planned list.

These are just a few tips on creating the ultimate to-do list. For more tips, please contact me. Have you put these tips to use? Do you have a few tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.