Thursday, May 22, 2008
Last summer, as I was all 'gang busters' starting my own company, many friends and acquaintances were asking me how I kept focused at my desk and not focused on the beautiful weather outside. The thing about entrepreneurs is that they are determined people - people who have an idea and do whatever they can to develop it. Nevertheless, it's easy to come undone and unfocused. So I began sharing my ideas in the form of a list to help keep my network on target with their goals: Auntie Melanie Notkin’s 20 Secret Weapons for Entrepreneurs to Stay Motivated, Inspired and On Course.
I have used these tools throughout my career. Some are timeless tips, and some came about with new technology. Some are original thoughts and some are borrowed from others. For the latter, I’ll let you decide which ones are which because frankly, they have become such a part of my life, I really don’t remember where they came from anymore!
1. Every night before you go to sleep, write down your To-Do list for the next day. I recommend adding www.netvibes.com as your personalized internet homepage. Not only can you manage your to-do lists, but you can get all your daily news and blog reading done in one place. (see item #7)
2. Do the most challenging items on your To-Do list before 11AM, if possible. Accomplishing the most difficult items on the list empowers you for the rest of the day. Holding on to that difficult action item might exhaust you and you’ll get nothing done! Reward yourself for getting through the hardest action item each day. (see item #3)
3. Getting stuck at your desk is not healthy! You need air! Go out and treat yourself to a $10 reward every day. It can be a manicure, grandé latte with whip, a paperback novel, etc., but get out of the office!
4. Take a long walk. Taking a walk has proven to be a time to gather thoughts and think most creatively. But bring your business notebook with you – you don’t want to forget your next big idea! (see item # 15)
5. Have lunch! And not alone! Circle yourself with a strong network and meet with different members of your network at least 2-3 times a week. And try to add at least 3 people to your network monthly. A good way to add to and keep track of your network is through LinkedIn. You’ll connect with people who know people who know people... Facebook is more than a great social network. You may find an old college classmate who is working in the same industry you want to go into, or become better acquainted with new people in your network. On Facebook, I found an old friend who is all-knowing when it comes to Internet Privacy and he became a member of my Advisory Board. And finally, there is Twitter, where you’ll find a community of like-minded people who can give you the support and resources you need.
6. Say “Thank You.” Keep an appreciation book at your desk and after you complete your To-Do list at night, write down everything you are thankful for that day. Once a week, go back over your entries. You’ll have A LOT to be grateful for. What a nice way to go to sleep!
7. Read. Some of my favorite and inspiring business writers include: Seth Godin, Al Ries, Paco Underhill, Guy Kawasaki, David Meerman Scott, Andy Sernovitz, Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff, David Vinjamuri, Ken Blanchard, Philip Kotler, Harry Beckwith, Malcom Gladwell and Stephen Covey, among others. Even if you don’t read all their books, some of these experts have blogs you can subscribe to for daily inspiration. Also, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Business Week, New York Times/SmallBusiness and WSJ are all good for inspiration. Some online publications have daily inspiration emails you can receive in the AM to help get your day started. There are also plenty of blogs about entrepreneurship (aside from this one). You can find some of the best ones at Alltop.com.
8. Look around and think about how every great marketing idea might apply to you. For example, look at Point-Of-Purchase promotions as a marketer, not a consumer. Think about what attracts you to a book cover or a product at a retailer. Read your direct mail! Stop that DVR and watch commercials! Click on banner ads! It’s a free marketing education.
9. Keep an Inspiration binder or bulletin board. Read a great article? See an image you like? Find a color palette that you are attracted to? Print or swipe it and add it to your collection.
10. Ask God or the Universe (or whatever you believe in) for what you want. Ok Ok, it sounds hokey, but believe me, you get what you want. Always.
11. If someone does something nice for you, ask them how you can help them – even if it sounds silly to you. If you meet a CEO who says she can help you, it may feel weird to ask how you can help her, but CEOs and other powerful people are people too, and more than anything, people want to feel appreciated. Offering to help is a better way to say thank you than sending a Thank You note. But do that too ;-) And thank them with something that communicates your brand. I sent a children’s book to a CEO for his twin daughters, and signed the note, Auntie Melanie Approved! Trust me, it’ll be a lot easier to ask for help the next time you need it!
12. Get business cards! Ok, you may not have a business yet, but you are still the President of your career. So get temporary business cards that say who you are, even if you’re not there yet. Before I had my branding, I got business cards that read: Auntie Melanie Notkin. Trust me, it will get people asking about your business, and eventually, it will be a reality. You can even get 250 free business cards at Vistaprint to start.
13. Write down your talents. Don’t be modest. Think about the most challenging accomplishments in your career. How did you succeed? Write down all those steps and you’ll realize you know more than you realized! And every day, write one of your talents on a virtual sticky Webnote on your Netvibes homepage!
14. Talk to people who inspire you. Don’t talk to people who don’t.
15. Keep a notebook just for your business notes. Read it once a week. It will be inspiring to see how far you go week by week.
16. Listen to music. Find artists who inspire you to believe in yourself. What music inspires you?
17. Read stories about entrepreneurs. For women, Beth Schoenfeldt and Victoria Colligan’s: Ladies Who Launch is great. Accidental Branding - How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands by David Vinjamuri is also inspiring. And don’t forget, people like Howard Schultz (Starbucks) was an entrepreneur at one point too. Everybody starts somewhere.
18. Talk to other entrepreneurs and help them in any way you can. Offer to write an article for their Website, promote their products to your friends, send them encouraging emails, etc. Karma is a Boomerang.
19. Ask for help. Even from a perfect stranger. Believe it or not, people love to help. And you need all the help you can get.
20. Inspire others! That Karma/Boomerang thing again... You can start by forwarding this blog post to a friend who might benefit from it.
I hope at least some of these tips have helped. Please feel free to add your tips below in the Comments section. I would love to hear about the things that keep YOU motivated, inspired and on course - as would the rest of my Dear Readers. Thank you!