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Desiree Ashton

doing the legwork, so you don't have to

Category Archives: Startups

MagicWhen did you last have a great day at the office? Is it something you experience regularly, or is that ‘great day’ feeling proving somewhat elusive? If constant fire-fighting and the pressure of a weighty To Do list are draining your energies, take a moment to consider how a little out-sourcery might transform your days from tragic to magic again:

Start with the end in mind – Get your week off to a great start by creating a thorough To Do list. This will organise your thoughts and allow you to quickly identify which tasks can be cleared from your desk and given to your virtual PA.  Once your list is collated, a quick briefing call with your PA will be all that is needed to offload those niggle-some tasks, freeing you up to focus on the stuff that really matters.

Think ahead – What’s in your calendar for next week, the week after… next month? Are there meetings or events coming up which require some background preparation?  Do you need to read up on a prospective new client? Consider tasking your virtual PA with completing the necessary preparation for you. A well-timed overview of facts and figures, not to mention some links to interesting pre-reading, will ensure you are knowledgeable, prepared and considerably less stressed on the run-up to the event.

Make room for success – Business, like life, does not always go to plan.  Take another look at that To Do list… is there anything else you can delegate to your virtual PA which will allow you to create more time in your week?  By clearing space in your diary, you build a natural contingency which will allow you to react more effectively should something change for the worse or not go to plan ….. And if your week goes swimmingly, you now have a spare slot in your diary to enjoy doing something that feels good – an extended lunch, coffee with a friend, or even sitting down to map out your next venture!

Transforming your days from tragic to magic again means tackling the problem head on and your virtual support is ideally placed to help you do this.  Some well timed out-sourcery may be all that’s needed to help you get your sparkle back.  No magic or spells required!

If you would like to find out more about how I help my clients get more out of their day, please visit my website or get in touch: pa@desireeashton.com

If you have enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy my earlier posts on Improving Your Focus and Take Control of Your Diary.

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For those who run a small business, no two days are ever the same.  Over the course of a normal working day, a small business-owner may be asked to sport a number of different hats – everything from personnel management through to financial control… with a possible detour into the role of marketing in between.  While on the one hand, this presents variety and challenge and the need to ‘think on your feet’, on the other, it can result in a sense of distraction, interruption and loss of momentum.

Regardless of the admin solution a small business has in place, there will always be times when the ‘task in hand’ must be completed by you alone and must take precedence over all other activity, e.g. re-drafting a business plan, preparing for a meeting with prospective investors or reviewing important information relating to a client briefing.  At that point, you want to be able to switch efficiently and effectively into ‘focus’ mode, nail the task and then move smoothly on to the next thing.

For someone used to sporting many hats, this can be easier said than done.  However, there are some simple, common-sense steps that can be taken now which will mean that when required, this spontaneous switch is both seamless and easy to obtain.

Six simple ways to improve your focus:

1.  Get Comfortable – one of the most common causes of distraction is discomfort.  Invest in a good workstation to ensure that cramp and discomfort do not cause you to fidget or interrupt your flow.

2.  Tidy Up – keep your workstation clear of clutter.  File any stray notes and papers which might catch your attention and cause you to ‘wander’ from the task in hand.

3.  Organise – develop a robust and straight-forward filing system both on your computer and in your office.  Make it easy to find information – both for you and anyone who may be assisting on certain tasks.

4.  Automate Your Email – use folders to ensure that only the most pertinent information arrives in your inbox.  Automate all subscription emails to pre-named folders.  Create auto responder templates which you can easily switch on to advise those who contact you when you are in ‘focus’ mode that you are away from your desk and will be accessing your email again at a particular time.

5.  Make the Most of Voicemail – all phones have this, but how often do we use it to actively manage when and how we are contacted?  By using your voicemail service over key work periods, you can minimise unwanted interruptions.  A brief personal message advising that you are in a meeting and will be picking up calls again at a certain time still gives the respective caller an impression of having been ‘personally’ attended to.

6.  Manage Your To Do List – as you tick off your To Do list, update your ‘Done’ List.  Be aware of how much you are achieving and understand what this means for your business.  Remaining focused takes effort and is not simply about tick lists – by acknowledging progress, you will remain motivated too.

The simple secret to improving your focus is to organise, and the pointers listed above can help you do this.  Interruptions and distractions are a fact of working life.   By choosing to proactively manage these, you can create a day-to-day environment where you can switch effortlessly into a more focused workspace, as and when you need it.

Good luck!

If you find this post interesting and useful, you might also enjoy my posts on effective planning and outsourcing.

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This week marks an important week for business – Global Entreprenuership Week.  Running in over 104 countries world-wide, there are some 40,000 events planned which are designed to  bring businesses big and small together, connect people, share ideas and also offer support and inspiration to drive the next generation of business owners to achieve their goals.  Quite an undertaking, and two days in, there’s a veritable buzz in the air….and across social media.   #GEW is providing a vibrant Twitter feed of what’s happening, and where.

Among the many events that are running in my area, I took time out of my busy Monday schedule to attend an event at MENTA in Haverhill, Suffolk, run in conjunction with Enterprising Acorns.  Both organisations offer invaluable support to budding and growing businesses, and the Monday morning session was a perfect example of the great work they do.

After a brief meet and greet with coffee and biscuits, the group were treated to two short presentations by Claire Martinsen of Breckland Orchard – an inspirational ‘mumpreneur’ with a strong nose for opportunity – and Steven Flory of Hudson Signs – a former corporate ‘suit’ who is now carving out a new career as an entrepreneurial businessman in his own right.

While both speakers now operate in very different sectors, much of what they said carried a common theme.  Both, through sharing their own startup stories, highlighted how many successful businesses start out simply as an ‘idea’…. something you know can and will work, you just need to have the courage and commitment to lift it off the paper and turn it into reality.  Interestingly, both told tales of going with their gut instinct, often appearing to contradict the accepted way of doing things.  Looking back now, they could see where some decisions could be called into question – but, would they change anything?  The simple answer seemed to be ‘no’.  For Steven and Claire, it was all simply part of the journey that had made them the successful business owners they are today.  This point seemed to resonate strongly with the audience – you already know what is best for your business.  Have faith in your own judgement.

At the end of the session, Claire and Steven were asked what, if anything, would they throw money at if they were to start out in business again?  Both very firmly shared the same opinion – sales.  In their experience, no business could be a business without an orderbook and it was the one area that both had repeatedly focused on in their respective startups. In their own experience, they knew that money spent on websites, premises, branding and even personnel, was pointless unless you had the pipeline of firm sales to justify it.  Of course, this did mean that many decisions relating to the likes of branding and personnel had to be taken at the eleventh (sometimes twelfth!) hour, and both recounted some genuine laugh-out-loud anecdotes about the lengths they went to in order to deliver on a contract in super-quick time.  What this did mean, however, was that they quickly developed an ability to think laterally, to know who they could ask for help when they needed it and, most importantly, to focus wholeheartedly on honouring and closing that sale.

I, for one, found their honesty and willingness to share their experiences hugely refreshing.  Their tales of chasing down opportunities and (come what may) delivering on promises showed true entrepreneurial spirit.  It certainly kick-started my week with a  bang, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

If you want to find out more about what’s happening in your area, check out the GEW website.

And.. if you want to know what I do to help startups and entrepreneurs, please take a swing past my website, too.

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