I have so many projects, I don’t know where to start….
At work, with your sideline business or for life in general, I’ve observed that many people can’t manage their time well. They all have tons of things to do and work super hard over long hours. But the result is always the same; they can’t make it.
If you feel overloaded, under pressure, crumbling under your pile of work, this post is for you.
Honestly, it’s difficult because you want it to be that way. My boss once said:
You can keep shuffling paper all day. At the end of the day, you will have worked 10 hours in a row like donkey, but nothing will be done.
The problem is not if you are working hard or not, the problem is that you are not working on the right things. I’m known for my sense of productivity. I’m actually obsessed by efficiency. If there would be a religion based on effectiveness, I would be one of their greater preachers . I have never believed that working long hours was the solution to achieve any task. Get smart instead. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to make sure I keep my focus on the right thing.
One of the biggest time consuming items in your life (after traffic, lol!) is probably email managing. In order to become efficient, you need to have a clear view of what has to get done. You need to look at the entire forest, not just the tree in front of you. If you attack one task after another, you’ll be a good soldier, but you will never lead the army.
What bugs me the most is my mailbox. I can’t start my day with an inbox full of email. This is why I always start my day by cleaning it out. In reality, there are only a few emails requiring immediate attention. Chances are that it’s not even 1 a day! This is why I scan through all my emails, delete the ones that are useless, forward a good part of them to other people who can work on them and answer 1 or 2 crucial emails in the morning. This way, I know that my mailbox is almost empty and the rest could be cleared towards the end of the day.
Each morning, after cleaning my inbox, I look at my week and at my day. I make a list of things I absolutely need to finish. Those are added value task that nobody could do. I’m not here to shuffle paper, I’m here to add value to my company; regardless if it’s my employer or my own company. The point is to add value when you work on something.
The short list will lead to the rest of my day and help me prioritize tasks. Every time a new thing to do hits my desk, I look at my quick list and determine if it should be part of it or not. Most of the time, it shouldn’t. So I put this task aside and continue my focus. I do exactly the same thing with my online company: focus on my quick list and put the rest aside.
Towards the end of the day, I have less “brain energy” so I can handle the rest of my emails, shuffle paper around and clean up other small tasks. The important things have been done, so I can spend time on things that don’t matter as much.
People say you need to take a step back to have a clear view. I don’t think it’s appropriate. I think you need to run a mile, go to the top of a mountain and then turn back and look at the big picture. At each beginning of the year, I take an hour or two to make my plan for the year. This plan is good for my day job, my online company and my personal life.
I listed my goals for 2013 for my personal and online business aspects on this blog. I do the same thing at work to make sure I’ll be on target with my objectives. You know what? This is why I never fail at doing a good job at work .
It all starts from setting your priorities. Most people don’t know which priority to set as first. I find it easy: take the one that adds the most value. I have seen people working on 10 sites at a time and my questions was: why don’t you focus on your top 2 earners and see if you have time left for the rest?
We have been putting a lot of projects on the shelf throughout the years for this reason. I don’t have the time to work on a super project? That’s not a problem, let’s put it on the shelf and work on a super project that is already working and generating money. In 2012, we had an insurance website project. We clearly don’t have the time to build it right now. So we just forgot about it and have focused on other money earners. This year, my main project is a membership website. Last year it was my book. You know what? I’m still selling 40 books per month after almost 9 months since we launched it.
So keep this in mind: choose what bring the most value as your priority. It’s not that complicated once you use this single rule, is it?Google+ Comments: 3 Read More
Who ever thought of making money out of their passion? Is it not the best financial scenario? Making money while you do something you truly enjoy. Most hobbies and passions require that you pay to enjoy them. If you can find a way where you can be paid to enjoy your hobbies, you have just found the Holy Grail! I’m not sure it’s true. A few weeks ago, I read a very interesting article about not turning your hobby into a money maker @ Retire By 40. Joe outlined a list of reasons why making money from your hobby isn’t as perfect as you may think.
A few years ago, I would have argued actively with him. I turned my blog into a business back in 2008. At that time, I saw the same thing as Joe: I can make money online. I can make money out of my hobby. Where I’m a bit different than him is that I started The Financial Blogger back in 2006 with this objective in mind: making money online.
When I start writing my blog, I knew I could make money from it. My friend (who became my partner in this adventure) was already making money from his website. He made enough to pay for his tuition fees and go on a 6 months foreign exchange student program. He never had a summer job, he was simply working online a few hours per week from his bedroom.
Then, I started to do some research and found John Chow. He had the first “make money blogging” blog I followed. When I was telling people in the Personal Finance Blog niche (we were less than 100 at that time) that I was in to make thousands of dollars per month, they all told me that I would be lucky if I could make $200 monthly! I decided to continue nonetheless as I knew that other people were making money.
This is why I started blogging: to make money. I wanted to share my financial knowledge as I thought that most people don’t get the right advice from financial advisors and journalists. The second goal was to improve my English writing skills. But behind all that, I knew I could make money from this business.
What happened is that the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. I’ve always love writing and even thought of becoming a writer when I was a kid. When I realized that most writers are starving, I thought a career in the financial industry was a better idea .
Slowly but surely, my passion for blogging and this whole “new world” started to grow inside of me. At that time, I was thinking about my blog non-stop. I used to get ideas at any time of the day and night and sent myself emails to keep track of them all. I developed a passion for building a business online.
At that point, I had reached the perfect balance: doing something I truly enjoy while making money from it. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect…
I mentioned this on the blog already but 2012 was a crappy year for us. The combination of having a new (very demanding) job, not sleeping with our newborn, getting stuck under $10,000 of unexpected expenses plus getting kicked in the nuts by Google was a lot of downers in a very short time span.
My passion started to fade away and I temporarily lost the desire to work like a maniac on my blogs. I still liked the fact of having a company and running projects but it looked a lot like a job at one point. The obligation of writing weekly, the tracking of our income and expenses, the projection updates we are doing to make sure we are on track with our objectives… All that sounds a lot like a job vocabulary and not a hobby or a passion.
This was a rough period as I know I need this money in my budget. A good part of my overall income is derived from my online company now. It represents roughly 30% of my income; I just can’t let it go. But having a second job (on top of being a father of three!) seems just like a recipe for a burnout later on. It hurt to think that I needed to work on my company instead of wanting to.
I can describe myself as a very difficult individual when it comes to work. I’m a real beast of productivity and do not fear completing humongous tasks within a ridiculous timeframe. However, I must be happy to do so. If I don’t have fun doing what I do, I become mediocre. I didn’t have the flame burning inside throughout 2012. This is when I started to question myself.
I had to go back to the reasons why I was having so much fun with my business and pulled them back to the top of my priority list. I love managing my business and seeing growth. Results are definitely the most inspiring factors for me. This is why I started to concentrate on how I can bring results to the table.
Cutting the crap, do what I love was the first thing I changed. I decided to write only the stuff that I want to write about. Too bad for Google and too bad if you don’t like it, I’m going to please myself with this blog!
Being part of a Master Mind Group was a clever move. I now have a weekly meeting with motivated people that help me bring results to the table. This is a true motivator for me.
Having a meeting with my partner was another great idea. Each year, we meet-up over the weekend to work on our company. We had a great discussion about the future of our blogs and our involvement. This has boosted my motivation through the roof.
It is! I’m feeling free to do what I like and this is probably the most important thing when you have a business or a hobby; never feel that you are forced to do something. This is probably the beginning of the end if you keep on to this route.
Do you find it difficult running your blog now that you are making money out of it? Is it changing anything to your writing style?
Google+ Comments: 10 Read More
In hockey as in many other sports, we say that good transactions are often the ones we don’t make. That’s always easier to say when you look back at potential moves you could have done but didn’t pull the trigger on. During my career, I have received several job offers. Some were very good, but I didn’t accept all of them. In recent years, I can look back and say that I’ve made the right choices. Today, I am looking at 3 prime jobs offers I’ve received in the past 3 years which I declined. The salary of each job is approximate and could have been higher… maybe not! Hahaha!
As soon as I finished my MBA, I got an offer to become a branch manager. Some people in the industry will tell me that it’s not a prime job as there are hundreds of branch managers working in big cities… and for each branch manager working; there are 2 on burnout, lol!
However, this branch wasn’t the small office at the corner of the street; it was a big branch with roughly 30 employees. The volume and prestige that come with such a branch is interesting. It gets you closed to the centers of power and highly visible to Vice-Presidents. In other words, it’s the perfect place to shine and get another promotion.
The base salary was good and there were obviously bonuses attached to it. I have a pretty good idea of how much I would have made since I was very close to other branch manager of that size. There was only one problem; the burnout factor. In that previous post, I explained I don’t believe in burnouts. In fact, I believe people are putting themselves in highly probable situation that they will crumble. Therefore, it’s their own fault if they burnout. This is exactly what would have happened if I would have accepted such a position. Being a branch manager sounds great but it also means that you are fully responsible for everything happening in the branch. This part is a real pain for me!
This is why I declined my first prime job offer and instead negotiated a 4 day work week. This was the best deal I ever made!
Not so long ago, I got a call from my first boss. I sometimes refer to him on this blog as he taught me everything about managing a career and performing at work. He was and still is my mentor when it comes down to my job.
My mentor got a promotion in his department (his second or third since I left) and he was offering me his previous seat! This was such an honor to be offered such a great job. The pay check is good and also comes with a potential bonus. I don’t have to manage the hassle of a branch since it’s one step higher. The job is more related to strategy and closer to upper management.
It doesn’t require too much traveling and I already knew some of the staff. Even better; I know this business better than anyone else. But the job is in Montreal, 1 hour away from my home. I did this for almost three years and I would not do it again at this time. It wasn’t the first reason why I decided not to apply though. I remembered the negative working climate in this department. Working in cubicles makes people complain and bad mouth each other. I didn’t want to be involved in “hypocritical wars”. For the sake of my own mental health, I decided to decline the offer.
Just before I left my job for parental leave in Montreal, I was offered to become a junior broker with a guaranteed 6 figure income. The job was truly awesome, I knew the people I would be working with and knew I would have had a blast with them.
This was truly a “dream job” where I could have used all my talent to perform and have fun. But here’s the trick; you are expected to use all your resources to succeed. This is why I would have been working crazy hours and loving it. The work doesn’t scare me; I’m scared of liking it!
I used to work like an animal while being in the top 3 in Montreal at the same time as completing my MBA. I loved that period of my life as it was incredibly challenging and rewarding. The problem is that if you do this for too long, you lose other things. I could have lost my marriage and seen my kids every two weeks because of my job. I didn’t want that back then and this is why I decided to work four days a week.
When I was offered this job, I took a moment to think about it. I knew that I wouldn’t regret the job itself. But I also knew that I would end-up regretting my lifestyle. There is no point of making a lot of money if all you do is work and have fun with the people you work with. The real richness is found in time spent with your true friends and family, not just with co-workers!
Have you ever said no to prime job and felt happy about it? Or have you accepted a job you shouldn’t have?Google+ Comments: 13 Read More
Since today is the month of the birthday of Love, I thought of sharing how love can help you reach the next level … All right, I’m going a little bit far with the concept of love… let’s just call it friendship or cooperation. I recently joined a Mastermind Group and wanted to share with you how it really helped me to reach a new level earlier this year.
While I was on vacation at the beginning of February, I received an email from a fellow blogger who recently started to comment on my blog. He had this idea of creating a Mastermind Group and invited me to be join it. The funny part is that the three other members included in this group weren’t not part of my “natural” blog circle. I barely knew them!
I went on their websites and saw that they were serious about what they did. After all, the guy who contacted me was someone who already makes a lot more than me in the online industry. I thought that if this guy wanted me in his group, I could bring something to the table and others would contribute as well. I decided to join without hesitation thinking that if this wasn’t for me I could always opt-out after a few weeks. But this Mastermind Group rocks!!
My wife’s reaction wasn’t as enthusiastic as I was. Who are these guys? Why do you have to meet each week? What are you going to do with this? Don’t you think you have enough on your plate?
This is a normal reaction and I expected it. My life is already pretty busy and it’s true that I don’t need more commitments to keep me busy throughout the week! However, I was looking for a way to bring my business elsewhere. After shifting our business model in 2012, it’s time to create some growth again and generate more money!
If you have read a few books about how to get rich, most writers have a common piece of advice: be part of a group or find a mentor. I always thought it wouldn’t apply to my model since I’m pretty busy and wasn’t sure I wanted to “report” to someone else. I’m not a group guy and would rather do my things on my own. But I don’t know why, this time, I decided to give it a try. Here’s how it works:
Each week, we get together for an hour. The meeting is done with Google Hangouts which is free and works very well (it’s like Skype on Steroids). The meeting goes as follow:
We each share a win (roughly 20 minutes)
Someone is on the hot seat (roughly 30 minutes)
We share our goals for the next week (roughly 10 minutes)
The goal is to keep the meeting efficient and short. Two things I truly appreciate!
How many times have you set goals for yourself and didn’t do anything? I’m not talking solely about blogging here. If you hold yourself accountable for losing weight, completing a course, writing a book, getting a promotion, building a company, etc, you won’t make it. It’s not a coincidence that there are runner groups and business meetings. We are all stronger with a group than by ourselves.
Have you ever thought of having to share a win every single week of the year? This is a huge moment of truth for every blogger as accountability jumps in. If you don’t really have a win this week, this is because you didn’t work on your project. So if you didn’t work and have nothing to say, it’s okay (the group won’t kick you out), but you will feel ashamed and most likely will work very hard the next week to have something to share.
The point of sharing is not only for accountability. After all, we are not business partners so we don’t owe anything to each other, but it helps to keep track of our goals. The second advantage of sharing your goals is to learn from each other. We get to see each person’s strengths and we can benefit from their experience. It’s an awesome chance to take notes and copycat effective methods.
The hot seat is my favorite moment. Each week, a member is given about 30 minutes to share his work about one of his projects. The project must be already in place and the “hot seater” must provide detailed information on the following:
What his goal is.
What he has done so far.
What challenges he is facing.
Once the other members receive this information (it’s usually done throughout the week prior to our meeting, we give our feedback and thoughts about the Hot Seater’s project.
I started the group with the first hot seat. I must admit that I was truly amazed by the amount of feedback I got. The quality and the quantity of suggestions were terrific. I submitted my Dividend Growth eBook project and asked them how I can make sure to continue to sell several books monthly and transform this project into a stable passive income source.
Guys didn’t simply bring me a few tips that I could improve; they literally analyzed my whole marketing process and provided me with pages of feedback! It was awesome to get so much feedback from people that weren’t aware of my book at all and were looking at the entire process with fresh eyes. They definitely set the tone for the next hot seats!
In February, I’ll be working on these improvements and I’ll share them with you, both the results before and after making changes.
While it’s fun to share wins and the benefits from the hot seat period is awesome, what I really needed in my business was the last part of this meeting; weekly goals to achieve. We not only share them during our calls but we also put them in writing in our private Google + community. No matter how I hate Google sometimes, these free tools are just awesome!
I’ve had taken a step forward a year ago with my partner by setting Quarterly Goals. But with weekly goals it ensures that you constantly work on your stuff. There is no more “I didn’t have time” which is often the translation of “I felt like a slob this week and didn’t do it because I’m lazy”.
Weekly goals are quite different from yearly goals and quarterly goals. This is not a huge thing that must be done. It is really a moment to work on “all the small things” that will help you achieve your bigger goals. It has helped me to breakdown my bigger goals into small actionable steps. Here again, if you don’t make them by the end of the week, you feel like you didn’t work properly in front of the group.
The simplest things are the best ones. A mastermind group doesn’t have to be heavy and complicated. Pick three other fellows that share a similar goal. It can be pretty much anything as long as you all have the same goals. Then, set a day of the week with a specific time and get started. You can have 3 points for each meeting as we do.
The key is to keep this straightforward and make sure that everybody gets something out of this meeting. If it’s effective, a weekly hour meeting is more than enough to create a Mastermind Group. Accountability and effectiveness, these 2 requirements must be at the center of your group. If you achieve this, your group will grow into friendship and something very powerful will come out of it!Google+ Comments: 7 Read More
Right after I came back from my Holiday vacation, I received some “unconventional news” via email; one of my co-workers was quitting the bank to buy a business. I’m using the word unconventional as it’s pretty rare that someone would leave a good pay check, job security (it’s not like they are firing salespeople in the financial services industry!), most solid pension plan (unless you are willing to bore yourself working for the Government ) and unlimited advancement potential (I have earned 5 promotions in 10 years at the bank).
Still, this young fella just decided that the financial industry was not for him and that he would rather go back to his first passion; owning a restaurant.
I must admit that I know little about the food industry. I love cooking, I love going to restaurants but I never thought of how I would run my own as an efficient business model. Margins are low, plagued by staff turnover, fresh food is crucial so potential losses are very important. In other words; I don’t think it’s an easy industry to have success.
I decided to have a good talk with this “kid” to know what he has in mind. At first, it seemed to be a crazy dream where the guy and his girlfriend didn’t think much about what they wanted to do. They were looking for a way out, they remembered the great times they had serving while they were in school and thought it would be a party every day.
I spent about an hour and a half talking about his business plan, how he thought he could make money and about his financial situation. It now appears to me that his dream is not that crazy after all.
The idea of buying a restaurant didn’t come from last night’s dream or a nostalgic night about the good times at the café where he worked with his girlfriend. He had been planning this for a while. As you don’t make a good dish in a hurry, he prepared his recipes with numerous hours of work behind it.
He made a business plan, using the previous owner’s numbers and dropped them by 20%. He ran numerous scenarios, identified where he could make immediate tweaking to improve his margins and sell things he didn’t need in his restaurant. On day 1, he won’t only get the key to his business and open the restaurant, he is going to apply his plan and start taking action right away.
He also set himself up in a way where he could get burned by a plate without losing his hand.
I think the most important point of your plan when you are throwing yourself into an entrepreneurship journey is to establish the worst case scenario. I’ve often ran this scenario in the event I would get laid off. While it’s almost impossible, I think you should always have a solid plan B to make sure you know where you are heading when you are in the eye of the hurricane.
That’s exactly what he did. First, he’s young, so he has plenty of time to recover from a big loss. Second, he didn’t start by buying himself some nice things when he got his first job. He and his girlfriend saved most of their income and bought a Triplex. Today, the rental property almost pays for itself while they live on the first floor for free. He doesn’t drive a nice car, he doesn’t have expensive taste, he can live on little money.
This is exactly the right mentality to start a business with. What’s the worst that can happen in his situation? The restaurant is a flop, he’ll lose 50k to 100k and will return back to his financial career (which was off to a great start anyways). By the age of 30, he won’t even feel the pain of his loss and in the meantime, he will still keep his Triplex and family. That’s the worst case scenario. He’s not lucky, he planned for it.
The problem when you make money is the consumption cycle you enter. I hate to say that, but Sam from Financial Samurai is right: saving 50% of your income is the best way to achieve financial freedom. I’ve let the “savings train” leave the gate at some point in my life because I’ve taken a bite of the forbidden fruit. Since then, my eyes have opened to a whole new world of nice things to have, to do and to eat. It’s fun but costly and takes you away from saving money and realizing other projects.
I remember when I was a few years younger with no family and living in an apartment. I was putting a lot of money aside. Much like my co-worker, I hadn’t touched the forbidden fruit yet. This was my advice to him; don’t start spending the money you make and jump on the train while it’s still here.
I almost envy him. Being able to drop a conventional career, conventional life, and conventional rules to do something different is awesome. It’s awesome because you open yourself to live other experiences. He planned everything so he could do it. He did it before becoming another bourgeois sipping wine on his terrace (hey, that’s me!). There is a part of me that envies him and the other part is screaming: “look at what you have! You’re living a good life where you enjoy time with your family!”. Yeah… that’s the other part: being an entrepreneur requires a lot of hours at work. Right now, there is no way I would trade my 4 day/week schedule for owning a business. I value the time spent with my family too much right now.
For those who think that the train of entrepreneurship passes only once in your life, I suggest you read how I manage my windows of opportunity to understand that there is always one opening very soon. The key is to be prepared to seize it.
The best way I know to seize an opportunity is to live a simple life and pay down your debts. These two things are quite a challenge for me right now… but I have my own way of making things happen .Google+ Comments: 9 Read More
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