Daydreaming About Starting Your Own Business? 4 Questions to Tell If You’re Ready

January 22, 2016  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  Love Your Work

starting your own business

Daydreaming about starting your own business?

Say”yes” to these four questions, and there’s a good chance you’re financially, emotionally and mentally prepared to become an entrepreneur.

1. Have you saved at least one year’s worth of your take home pay? 

Financial experts recommend that an emergency savings fund have three to six months worth of a person’s take home pay to have a cushion for life’s unexpected emergencies.

But that rule applies to people with steady income.

An emergency fund of at least year’s worth of your income means you can persevere through the uncertainty of starting your own business.

Your income will fluctuate. That business idea may cost more than you thought. Clients may not pay you quickly. You have to pay taxes four times  a year. Life happens. All the while, your health insurance premiums, monthly mortgage payments and basic living expenses don’t let up.

2. Have you calculated the cost of your basic monthly living expenses?

Starting a small business means the sky is the limit on your long-term earning potential. But how will you pay for today, tomorrow, and the day after that?

Calculate your total monthly expenses for necessities (shelter, food, insurance, debt obligations).

Include recurring monthly expenses you’re not willing to give up (like a cell phone bill, a car payment, or a gym membership).

That’s the bare minimum you can afford to make each month when you start a business.

Have to take on a part-time job while you’re building your business to make ends meet? That’s fine. What’s not? Relying on credit cards, or your emergency savings fund to make up the shortfall.

3. Have you calculated the cost of health insurance, taxes, and similar workplace benefits ? 

Full-time employment offers expensive perks many of us don’t realize are valuable. Until we don’t have them.

Evaluate your current workplace benefits. You may have to pay for these out of your own pocket once you own your own business.

  • Does my employer contribute a “match” to my retirement account? If so, what is the annual value of it? Ideally, you’ll want to be able to stay consistent with your retirement contributions when you open your own small business retirement plan).
  • Does my employer pay for all or part of my health insurance premiums? If so, what will you have to pay out of pocket to obtain similar levels of coverage?
  • Does my employer pay for my short-term disability insurance, and/or life insurance? If so, how much will you have to pay for the same coverage?
  • Does my employer offer a paid vacation and/or maternity/paternity leave? How will you continue paid time off for yourself once you start a business?
  • Does my employer offer tuition assistance (that you’ll use)?  Are you willing to pay for tuition out of pocket if you wish to return to school?
  • Does my employer pay for my cell phone or computer? How will the loss of that benefit impact monthly expenses?

4. Are You Willing to Adjust Your Lifestyle? 

If you have a romantic ideal of what it means to be an entrepreneur, you may be in for disappointment.

Starting a business means starting over from scratch.

Until you establish your business, you may need to adapt your lifestyle significantly. That may mean you don’t shop for new clothes each season.Perhaps you’ll have to trade in that high-end luxury model car that you lease, and start using mass transit. You may not be able to pay for lavish vacations or dine out regularly, for the first few years you’re an entrepreneur.

Make sure that you are prepared and ready to make lifestyle changes when starting your own business.

Consider how you’ll find inexpensive ways to continue feeling fulfilled. Instead of that $100 an hour personal trainer, perhaps you start taking a free community yoga class in the middle of the day. Just because you can. Because now you’re the boss of your life.

 

 

 

Productivity Tips for Real People

January 19, 2016  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  Love Your Work

productivity

Smartphones, tablets, social media and text messages have led us to a paradox of productivity. Now that we can find nearly any answer, person, or place on a mobile device within seconds, and talk, walk, read, listen (or act like we are) all at the same time, we’re less apt to accomplish our most important tasks.

Just look at the amount of coverage mindfulness and meditation now get in the mainstream media. We’re surrounded by a constant external stimulation. Now the one thing we can’t find is internal silence. Yet that’s what we need to perform at our best, personally, and professionally. It’s leads to creative solutions, inspiration, and innovation.

But for most, productivity tips aren’t realistic, and finding silence is easier than it sounds. You may work in an open environment office where it’s tough to drown out distractions.

You may have a boss who expects you to answer an email immediately, no matter the time of day.

Or, you may be your own productivity problem. In full disclosure, I’ve gotten five email notifications in the five minutes I’ve been writing this piece. And yes, I took a moment to look up and see the contents of each. I suspect I’m not alone in my productivity paradox.  I know that all this distraction boosts my stress, and lowers my focus and ability to work efficiently. But part of me likes the action. It makes us feel needed, relevant, and important.

If you can relate, I’ve got a few productivity tips that you’ll likely find easy to put into practice. They’ll drown out the distraction that hinders your on the job performance–without requiring that you go off the grid completely.

Set visual boundaries. How do you let co-workers know that you’re deep in thought if you work in a wall-less cube or open workspace? Architecture interior expert Leslie S. Saul suggests setting your own visual boundaries that let others know you need some privacy — especially if your office is located in an area with heavy foot traffic.

Saul suggests you might attach a flag or some kind of visual symbol to your cube. (Of course, you will have to let others know what it means). “When the flag is up, for example, it may signal that you are not to be disturbed. When it’s down, you non-verbally signal to co-workers that it’s okay to interrupt,” says Saul.

If you work from home, you may need to set your own kind of boundaries. If seeing a mess triggers distraction, shut the door. If sitting makes you sleepy, stand up and work. If you can’t tune out a neighbor’s lawn mower, use earphones and listen to soothing “white noise.” The same trick helps to block out distracting sounds like email “pings,” footsteps, keyboard strokes, office chatter, and ringing telephones in the office.

Schedule your day like school. My son is in kindergarten. His day has a predictable schedule, and all tasks include start and end times. For some reason, we lose that structure in the workplace. As a result, we waste loads of time trying to schedule meetings, get to the point on conference calls, or get the sign off from a decision-maker to move forward with a project.

That’s why I love this productivity technique called “time boxing.”

The idea is structure and detail your workday in advance. Your priority “to do” items get a start and end time, along with a quick description of exactly what needs to happen to complete the task. You can even note where you’ll work on it, so people who need to know whereabouts in an office can see where you are and what you’re doing on your shared calendar.

To stay accountable, you schedule start and end task alarms.  Interruptions can and will happen, but the idea is that you have more control over your day. More importantly, you decide what gets your attention when. If you don’t get through a task before time is up, it gets rescheduled, and you move on to the next task.

The key to making this technique work? Be realistic. Meetings, time spent at the printer, small talk with co-workers, bathroom breaks, and unplanned phone calls all get a time box.

Share your calendar. We’ve all dealt with the coworkers and managers that don’t know how to use a shared calendar. It’s frustrating, and they derail the whole benefit that is meant to eliminate back and forth scheduling conversations.

But be the change you want to see, instead of scrapping the idea altogether. Especially if you’re going to use time-boxing. Whether the rest of your office does it, share” your detailed calendar so anyone who needs to know what you’re up to can see exactly what you’re doing. Maybe it will rub off. Even if it doesn’t, it may reduce how many co-worker interruptions and questions you get. At the least, it may force someone to be more succinct when they approach you.

Never let up on your three big whys. It feels good to know you’ve done something valuable with your day. But we rarely keep tabs on the big payoff productivity allows. That’s why we reply to a text instead of listening in a meeting. That’s why we (okay, I) check email in the middle of writing, like a Pavlovian dog.

But most of us have a big “why” behind our generic goal to get things done. What’s yours? What does it mean for your future, and why is that important to you?  In his book The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results author Gary Keller (co-founder and Chairman of realty company Keller Williams) says that in addition to using time boxing, he maintains  focus on his top goal for the year.

That one big “why” is a guiding light for him. With that sense of purpose, he looks at his time block list and identifies which tasks will bring him a step closer to that meaningful mega goal. Because those are the truly important tasks in the grand scheme of things, he dedicates a four-hour time block of his day to them.

If your goal is to get promoted, for example, consider what you need to accomplish or demonstrate to make that more likely. Then, check out your time block. Invest the most energy into the tasks on your list that will contribute to your big goal, in some shape or form.