Productivity Hack – My favourite Method to be More Productive

Productivity Hack – My favourite Method to be More Productive

The reason I needed to hack my productivity

I was busy and I needed a productivity hack that would help me progress.

Do you put you needs last?

Me? I used to say “I’ll do that when I’ve finished XYZ” or “I’ll do all my calls first thing that way they’re done and dusted”.

This method held me back and didn’t work.

The problem is that when I’ve spent a huge chunk of the day focusing on other peoples businesses I get swamped by their details, their progress and by the time it comes to doing it for me, I have no energy and it’s always last minute. What did I do?

Altering my productivity strategy had a really positive effect.

Changing this boosted my confidence too. I wrote about other ways to do that in ‘Can You Be More Confident’

What is this productivity hack?

Work starts at 10am. I don’t take any calls until at least 11am and I don’t do any client work until after lunch.

I’m better in my business when I get to spend time with it first thing in the day. Concerned it would be detrimental to my client work it’s actually the opposite. Not worrying about mine means I’m great at theirs.

Win-Win

Why was this damaging?

  • Making elaborate time blocked plans but filled my day with my client work, none of mine.
  • Treated them as if they were more important than me and when it comes to mindset that creates a whole other mess!
  • Great clients but little consistency for my business. 100% focused on existing clients and hadn’t expanded my audience.
  • Spending the day ‘over delivering’ for my clients but reactive in my own and mentally drained.

Not anymore though.

My current schedule

5-6:00: Get up, have a cup of tea and do 20-30 minutes of exercises which vary from day to day

7:00: Have breakfast and just mentally plan my day and allow my mind to wander – give myself space to think and be creative

7:30: Housework and social media engagement with others

9:00: When possible I take the dog for a walk then shower and get myself ready for the day ahead

10:00: Emails, diary check and prepare social media. Make sure Josh is organised for his ‘school work’

11:00: Client call (Tues/Weds/Thurs). If no call booked I work on research, proposals and pitching.

12:00: Lunch

13:00: Client work

15:00: Coffee and quick housework (get washing off line etc)

16:00: Complete works, follow ups and client related project work. Also, this is the time I start getting harassed by my son and dog about what’s for dinner and wanting my time

17:30: Finish up for the night and go make dinner, finish chores and read or watch TV with Ryan and Josh.

Rarely do I do any client work on a Monday or Friday either. These days are solely for content creation and driving my own business forward. It works for me.

Perhaps you feel you can’t do it. I’m not perfect at it either. Maybe you think you just can’t ‘productivity hack’ your way to a different schedule or you already use some productivity hacks and find them helpful, I still ‘time block’ but it’s different.

Try it

If things aren’t working for you right now then I encourage you to take a look at your schedule. Map out what you do every day for a week and make a note of what you’re not getting done that is ESSENTIAL.

Finding time to prioritise your own businesses is the best thing you can do, that’s not a productivity hack but a better use of your time.

In lock-down it is harder to maintain but I urge you to try anyway. Working in a way that prioritises your business, whether it’s a ‘productivity hack’ or not, the quality you provide your clients will increase because you’ve got the mental space to allow it to. It’s your schedule.

Remind yourself of this. Doing exceptional work for your clients means nothing if you have to hustle for business because you haven’t nurtured your potentials.

What do you think?

Join my mailing list and I’ll email every Monday to help you set yourself up for the week – the right way!

Catch you later,

Amy xx

Understanding your audience to make sales (the strategy)

Understanding your audience to make sales (the strategy)

Whether you’re new to business or are more established everyone will tell you that aside from your product or service the key to your success relies on this. Understanding your audience so that you can market your product or service as something they want.

Something I’ve really struggled with in the process of building my own business is reaching out to new potential clients. I find it hard to ‘big myself up’ and have never considered myself a natural salesperson.

But, I think we often confuse our feelings towards sales. What makes it feel ‘slimy’ is the historic overly slick methods with which people used to market their wares.

Marketing is the bedrock of any successful business.

Understanding your audience. Online Marketing

Once I realised this and decided that marketing is simply a conversation opener which is in effect, a celebration of your product or service, it felt less slimy and more something that I could make my own.

I learned during my decades in customer service; that if you’re not able to communicate with your clients in a way that makes them sit up and take notice your journey with them is going to be much more difficult and long winded. So, looking at marketing as the early stages of customer service has been a great way for me to re-frame it.

What to expect when you first start marketing

There are a few things that it’s worth giving you a heads up on when it comes to your marketing and what that means, particularly in the early days.

  1. Making mistakes that make you blush in the future is normal
  2. You’ll feel like you’re spamming your friends, family, social media and potential clients (carry on trying and learning. You’re not spamming, you’re working)
  3. Being a bit rubbish at it to start is expected
  4. You do get better the more you do
  5. If they aren’t paying your bills, they shouldn’t have a say in how often you share your products/services etc.
  6. Consistency is key from day one. The sooner you get consistent the sooner you will reap the rewards.
  7. Nobody does it well first time round the block
  8. The more ‘you’ it is the better it will be

The two most important factors to consider when you are marketing

I’m going to caveat this next bit because I think it’s important to remember that the world, people and business evolves. Your business and the needs of your customer will often be best served if you periodically revisit these two factors and reassess them.

So, when it comes to marketing your product or service should be ‘opening the conversation and starting the customer service journey with potential clients’. Ask yourself 2 things.

  1. Is this the correct market for my product or service
  2. Do I really understand (on a core level) who my potential purchasers within this market actually are?

There are so many tools out there that will help you to define your IC (ideal client). These sorts of tools are great to get the ball rolling but as I said before, this is an ongoing process.

I also deeply believe that as a business, your first thought of an ideal client may not mirror who you actually find you love working with.

For instance, I always thought of myself as a mans woman.

Cutting my teeth in male dominated industries I thought that techy start ups run by men were my IC. As it turns out once I started working with people I realised that I much preferred working with people who were more like me. Who had and had a background more like my own.

I digress!

Breaking down your IC is all well and good but it can be bloody difficult when you first start out. You may not have worked with many people. This can result in marketing to everyone and your message becomes generic. Forgettable.

Not to mention the ones you do seem to acquire can be totally the wrong fit. Think of this as your learning curve and a necessary one. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your IC.

When you understand who your market really is, you will know how to reach them on a gut level/ That my friends, is memorable.

Then your job is to do it again. Repeat your message and show your empathy. Allow your audience to get to know you too.

It’s then that they realise you understand them. After a while they add to cart or email using your contact form and book that call or maybe, they refer a friend to you.

So what is the strategy to really understand your audience and make sales?

Understanding your audience with strategy - plan in scrabble tiles

S.C.E

  1. Strategy
  2. Connection
  3. Emotion

Strategy

Being strategic isn’t ‘cold’. In fact, having a strategy for ongoing relationship building is the kindest thing you can do for your clients. It’s also kind for you and your business.

The first part of your overall customer strategy starts with collecting all of the information you know about your customers. Keep and use this as an ongoing support resource.

Enabling you to address their concerns, problems, pain points, the things that keep them up at night and their deepest wants.  Collating anything informational about your IC in order to help you understand them.

You could run surveys, do general market research. Competition research, existing client feedback etc.

I don’t think spending any more than a few minutes a day say 10-15 for maybe a week or two is too much to commit.

Connection

Step 2 and it’s all about starting to build relationships with your customers and finding and practising ways that you can cultivate those relationships.

This is where you take it one step further then just collecting information from them. This is the stage where you cultivate those conversations. Where you talk to each other about them; about what’s going on. Importantly where you listen to what they’re telling you. Here you need to really listen to what they are struggling with and to what they really want in life.

Start the conversation and then participate in it, listen to the other person and follow up with them, appreciate their struggles and emotions and take them on board. And remember, your focus isn’t just on cultivating a sale here, it’s about building a relationship with this person.

Let them get to know, like and trust you and you do the same. Be a human and not just some techy message on an app desperate for a quick buck.

Emotion

So you’ve gathered the information, you have opened the conversations and you have begun to build relationships. Now it’s time to take that one step further.

It’s time to really unleash the empathy and get emotional.

Here’s the thing, have you ever really struggled with something and finally ‘cracked’ and shared your frustration with someone only for them to say “why don’t you just do this, that’ll sort it out”

It feels almost like you’re being embarrassed for not doing it sooner, it can make you feel a little disappointed in yourself and if you’re anything like me it actually makes it harder to connect with that person again because we need clarity but we also desire empathy.

However, if you have the ability to put yourself in someone elses shoes the response might be a little more something like this.

“That’s such a tough position to be in, I really appreciate how this must be making you feel right now. I don’t know if I ever told you but I had something similar with XYZ and I know it’s not for everyone but this is what really helped me get through it…..”

The actual ‘fix’ will likely be the same but the way it was said was different, one was empathetic and one was instructional. The reason you share it is the same – to be helpful. The only difference is one shows a deeper emotional understanding of their situation and that’s what creates emotional connection.

Here’s the thing

There is nothing on the planet that can genuinely guarantee you get sales, but if you can really become exceptional at the above then what you will find is that your content, your ads, your products and services, your resources all become so much easier to create, you build relationships and relationships aren’t one and done, they’re ongoing.

This is about growth and sustainability for your business and both those things are only possible when you truly ‘get’ your people.

If you want more ‘how to’ teachings about this and many other things I run regular FREE workshops and masterclasses, these all get emailed to anyone registered for access. Want access?

 

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My business skills are aging like fine wine and pungent cheese and I love it

My business skills are aging like fine wine and pungent cheese and I love it

The skills from having developed entire departments for other businesses and the years of experience should be shared and valued.

I have been noticing that my body, perspective and lifestyle have been changing over the last couple of years. I’m approaching 38 and it’s scarier to me than any other age so far. When my son turned 15 in November I began to feel old. This isn’t the feign the feeling to get sympathy thing, this is the ‘I could be halfway through my life and I’m already complaining about the weather based on the feeling in my knees’ kind of feeling.

The thing is my mind feels the youthful vibrancy of my twenties – the sense of shock when I go to a gig and I’m the oldest person there when I still expect to be the youngest person in the room surprises me everytime. My mischievous nature and childish sense of humour don’t scream ‘middle aged mum’ and yet somehow I feel old and I noticed last year that this was the energy I was putting into my business.

I find myself fascinated with new tech, software and lifestyle fashions but I don’t always feel like I can really enjoy them. There’s a part of me that feels that I’m heading towards a societal limitation and there is no odder time to feel this than when building your own business.

I have spent decades in senior customer service roles with project management, admin and solution driven targets my holy grail. For years I have wanted to share those hard earned, well honed skills with others but when it came down to it I felt that someone with more outward youthful vibrancy, someone powerhousing through the small business world would somehow look at me and say, hey, if you were that good why did it take you so long to start? 

So I didn’t start, not for a long time. I first thought about building this business in 2010. Can you believe that?

It took me 8 years to get out of my own way long enough to just start!

And it took another 1.5 to realise I was hiding my skill set under a bushel and limiting myself to a particular kind of work. I named this ‘niching down’ like the gurus said but what I felt was dull, restricted, inauthentic and undervalued.

I have tried over the past year or two, to build a business using that standardised cookie cutter approach and I had some real success. It absolutely can work really well but my clients always used far more than my advertised ‘VA servcies’ I didn’t pay THAT need enough attention and I focused heavily on admin support.

But, if being on the coal front of customer service taught me one thing, it’s never to assume that we are all the same. It was about time I worked that strategy into my own business and treated myself as my own client. To give a better service (one that I was much happier in myself) I needed to become my own client and use my tools to move that needle forward.

If you’ve been following me for a while then you’ll know that I am now focused on your business strategy and support needs and so have pivoted from basic VA work.

I took a 6 month hiatus and did a full 12 month no sell challenge to really pull back the curtain and get some clarity and focus. It was eye opening and here is what I found:

I want to offer it all.

I don’t want to limit my clients to only learning, growing and investing in one small part of my skill set. I want to share the whole freaking package with you. The last 22 years in the workforce, the last decade in customer service senior management. All these years of aging, learning, and developing these skills have given me this wonderful tapestry of experience within the business world and in building relationships. 

The question then was how would this work. If you were to want to work with me then what could I offer on top of those VA services? What would be worth the money to you and satisfying and self sustaining for me?

The answer is a business support strategy service, designed to take you from your area of concern and frustration to planning, strategy, service, implementation and ultimately growth. This incorporates my; 

  1. Customer service, journey focused approach to business
  2. Project management experience
  3. Quality Improvement and service development skills
  4. Relationship building techniques
  5. Solution focused problem solving abilities
  6. Systems, procedures and implementation skills
  7. High touch quality support for you and your unique needs
  8. Quality VA support service
  9. A lifetime of ridiculous productivity hacks
  10. My unique sense of humour, complimentary personality and multiplier style.

If you’re interested in finding out more of what this could mean for you then check out my services clicking the big purple button below!

Catch you later, Amy x

Why I had to find myself to find my work/life balance, build a business I love and create the flexibility I dream of

Why I had to find myself to find my work/life balance, build a business I love and create the flexibility I dream of


Growing up the phrase ‘I need to find myself’ made me think of backpacking to Nepal, finding religion or giving away all my worldly possessions and whilst I admire anyone that does those things, I’ve definitely never been that girl.

But what happens when you’re in your mid (ok late) 30s and realise that you have no bloody clue about your life, your business or your money? Did I suddenly find myself selling my crockery on a Facebook for sale page to get the plane ticket money together? Was Nepal looming big and bright like a monk on top of a mountain in the golden sunshine during a glorious morning chant?

Nope.

Eurgh, how could I be so sure about other peoples businesses but not truly understand my own self and how that self should be the foundation for my own freelancing career?

When I was a child I used to write down my biggest dreams, fold them up and place them behind a beloved picture. I was just a child but I’d read about it somewhere and, eager to meet a 6ft 5 dark haired, blue eyed, academic engineer (I was very particular about that – I even think his name was Michael) I diligently began the practice of writing down my dreams.

I would go to school all awkward in my silver puffer jacket all curly hair and long legs, wearing my jodhpurs or mens black nike jogging bottoms (I have been over 6ft since I was 11 – it was not easy to find uniform) desperately doing anything I could to be forgettable and blend into the background, being best mates with all the boys whilst secretly wishing that either of the Jasons would fall head over heels in love with me. 

At school I was this awkward girl who was friends with everyone and was kind and nice and mostly forgettable. At home, I wrote all my deepest desires and said all of the things I had left unspoken during the day on those pieces of paper. I would clip them behind the pictures in my bedroom, hoping and wishing that their awesomeness would somehow seep off the page and into my body as I slept.

You are shaped from birth but there comes a time when it’s a choice

As I became an adult it was like having an angel and a devil on my shoulder. Part of me longed to explore life, relationships, careers and would go barrelling headfirst into all those experiences (at weekends these were mostly fuelled by snakebite and Jack Daniels with the occasional aftershock and sambuca thrown in for good measure) with the power of booze flowing through my body I would be confident and fun and refused to be kept in the shadows.

I even spent one of those nights sucking face with one of the Jasons. It was teenage Amys biggest wish and though it was lovely it was also pretty average – the earth did not move, the fireworks did not go off and I most definitely did not have anything more than surface level attraction for a time gone by.  

Why couldn’t I figure out who I was?

The problem I had in figuring out who I was, was that when I was sober for the working week I was incredibly shy, bored most of the time and I had awfully low self confidence. I lived in such a way that I separated my week into three very separate areas – exhausted necessity (work), family and home and unadulterated fun (pub/clubs). Oh and the key to this – those lives never met. 

Don’t do what I did, don’t dissect your personality to mould each area of your life into one without fear of judgement. It doesn’t work and frankly it makes you feel bad.   <click to tweet!

I guess the problem I found was that whilst I was masking myself in one area and being brazen in another in order to present to that world the Amy who I thought people wanted, I was fracturing my spirit a little and it was becoming ever harder for me to figure out whether I was one or the other, let alone a complicated mix of the three.

Over the years to follow I found that I wasn’t sure about myself in a lot of ways. 

  • What genre of music did I like? 
  • What career suited me best?
  • What did I want to do with my free time?
  • What kind of food did I like?
  • What did I want to contribute to my community?
  • What made me happy?
  • What did I do just for fun?

Honestly, I had no bloody idea and frankly the fear I felt when I found myself asking these questions made me shove them firmly in a box and lock it shut.

What happened next

As I got older, built a career and created a family based on this fractured, boxed off self image and its fractured, boxed off dreams I began to unravel.

Long story short I cycled through everything, homes, relationships, money, friendships and jobs. I could never truly understand why but I used it as another opportunity to label myself as a failure. 

Unlovable, incapable and just a poor version of what I thought people would consider an acceptable Amy.

As luck would have it I came to a weird crossroads later in my life (not that many years ago) where I was slapped in the face with my own self. I wouldn’t have called it luck at the time, I would have called it burnout and heartbreak then but now I can see it for what it was.

It was time to meet the real Amy and figure out what I wanted in this life.

I started exploring doing different things, going to different places as well as being different things. 

  • I learned I like all music genres depending on my mood. 
  • I learned that I wanted a career in which I supported women building their businesses but I wanted to do that on my terms, with flexibility and the ability to work from home (or anywhere with an internet connection). I also wanted the ability to pivot, change, learn and evolve as I would no doubt do in my life.
  • I learned I am for the most part a homebody. 
  • Me and my waistline learned that I love most food but that Greek, a Sunday roast or something Mexican will nearly always win me over if it’s on the menu.
  • I learned that I wanted to be of service to my local community though I had and still have no idea how I want to do that.
  • I learned that an inviting home, eating with my loved ones and working for myself makes me feel happy.
  • I also learned I love to listen to podcasts, read books, drive my car, laugh with a handful of friends, be touristy wherever I go as well as just sitting quietly alone and enjoying the peace are some of the things I enjoy just for fun.

What I also found was that in starting my business without really understanding the kind of person I am I floundered a little longer than I needed to. Oh it was all in the learning curve and my first year was pretty successful in my opinion but the way with which I had structured it had been through fear, exactly in the same way I had split into 3 different people.

This meant that I had little to no flexibility, had ended up working predominantly with men and had little time dedicated to my freelancing/business/professional growth. It was not quite the right fit and I felt sectioned off again into little boxes.

Figuring out who I am has been fundamental to being able to implement processes and share my business and skills with my clients. It does it in such a way that it maximises the benefit of my business to both parties and as I begin this next chapter, I am working it in alignment with who I am. More so than ever before.

I don’t have all the answers but I know that when you figure out what, who and why you light up and what, who and why you feel drained (I believe these are the simplest yet most powerful questions) you can mould your business model to make the most of it and we all know that time flies and joy expands when you are living and working in an environment designed for your own growth and happiness.

The most interesting thing about all this is that who you are is not a static thing but in fact is a gently flowing river that constantly ebbs and flows. The joy should be taken not in getting to the other side of the river but in fact by enjoying the nuances of the flowing water and embracing them.

I’ve invested in coaching and it has really been fundamental to changing my mindset. If you want a more cost efficient way of doing this have you thought about a mentor? I offer a great Mentorship package. If you register for more details you get updated on the info and availability. You’re under no obligation – just click below and SIGN UP TODAY.

Catch you later, Amy x

Who is Amy Johnson

Who is Amy Johnson

It’s so cool to have you here, reading my blog and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside thinking that you’ve found your way here. So, along with you being able to check out my archives for a little less ‘me me me’ if you want, I thought it was probably a good opportunity to talk about who I am, why I’m here and what I actually do.

First up here are my stats dating profile style…

Hi I’m Amy, I’m a 6ft 2″ woman of 37. I have a 14 year old son (soon to be 15) and a nutty Jack Russell. I have a boyfriend, I learned to drive when I was 33, I live in a wonderful village in Suffolk and I have a weakness for Yorkshire tea and egg custard tarts.

But here’s the thing, I don’t really recognise myself when I read that. I mean, yes, I am all those things but there is so much more and much of that is linked to my professional career and the things I have learned along the way.

I started my career in customer service when I was just 14 years old. I had left school and the job became my saving grace. I spent the next 8 years building up a career that was steeped in training, administration and customer service.

Then, the most entrepreneurial adventure of them all – I became a mother and several years later I became a single mother. You don’t know what multi-tasking is until you become a working single parent.

I continued to work my arse off and was fortunate enough to have my skills recognised and grew from promotion to promotion, my corporate career going from strength to strength. All whilst raising my son and maintaining a home and dreaming of a different better future for us both.

A few of the roles I’ve held and made significant positive strides in are receptionist, junior administrator, sales executive, senior administrator, learning facilitator, tutor, office manager, customer service coordinator, head of returns department, service coordinator, management support, customer care coordinator, customer care manager, customer relations manager, head of customer care. (These are in no particular order and all have provided valuable learning and insight)

One of the things I learned as I grew and changed (mostly once I became a parent and juggling the way only a single parent would understand) was that I was bored of being hemmed in by bureaucratic red tape and the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality.

All of the businesses I had been in believed that they were visionary and in many ways were but thy still had their way of doing things and I was always limited with who I was allowed to help and how I was allowed to do it. You know what I mean, protocol and policy often cited that kind of corporate personality was becoming an obstacle for me.

I always believed that each individual brought their own strengths and skills and also that each person – integral to each team, learned differently and could be so very much more. It always went against the grain to have a training programme or a method for upping the volume/sales/good feedback created for a specific personality type.

I wanted to be a multiplier of talent not a creator of replica executives. I got fed up of hearing businesses paraphrase the old favourite ‘think outside the box’ whilst being terrified of unleashing individuality and creativeness from within their existing team.

I gravitated towards those I worked with that could see that the only box people had to think outside of was the one of their own making and I 100% always found the entrepreneur in the room.

I took the decision to start my own business in May 2018 and it’s been a wild ride, an evolution and a wonderful and exciting journey but I realised recently that since I made the decision not to openly sell to you for the rest of the year, you may not actually know what I do.

My years in the corporate rat race and my dream of seeking out small business owners to talk to and draw inspiration from as well as find a way to help them to help themselves led me starting my business (terrible marketing strategy that one)

In a nutshell, I’m a ‘Business Support Strategist‘.

I use Zoom calls, individualised trainings, worksheets, printables and workshops to create and implement strategies designed to lead quality improvement in the chosen area.

It’s about helping small businesses to streamline, to get clear on why they’re overwhelmed. It’s about working together and being accountable. It’s about providing them with the tools, resources, connection and support they need to tame the damaging chaos in their businesses that they feel is holding them back and help them find their own excellence and inspiration to embrace the positive chaos that so badly wants to propel them forward.

My goal with my small business?

To work with as many female led small businesses as possible, helping them unlock their potential and realise the next stage of their business whatever they dream of.

If you’re considering working with me then click the button below to see what your options are.

Catch you later, Amy x