Make Your Work More Productive in 2013

Results - Productivity

Today’s guest post is from Ray Edwards. This is the kind of thing I really need to hear, since my focus and productivity levels seem to be roughly equivalent to the level of H20 in my town of Shallowater. The original post can be found here, but I have included it in it’s entirety for you.


I took the last few days to contemplate what worked for me, in terms of productivity, over the past year – and what did not work. The result: a new plan for improved productivity in 2013. While you may not wish to duplicate my plan point-for-point, I thought you might find it useful to see my “working blueprint”. Maybe it will serve as a springboard for your own fresh new productivity tweaks.

Productivity Philosophy

I looked at a number of productivity programs and approaches, many of which I have used in the past. After careful consideration, I still can’t find another system that works as well as Getting Things Done. While I find great ideas in the Franklin Covey approach, among others, GTD makes the most sense for me. If you are not familiar with the GTD philosophy, I encourage you to read David Allen’s seminal work on stress-free productivity. A great augmentation to the GTD material is one of my favorite new podcasts and websites, Erik Fisher’s “Beyond the To-Do List”.

Planning

In keeping with my adherence to GTD, my planning is fairly simple. I have a weekly review session on Fridays, during which I collect all the inputs that have accumulated over the past week, and one by one clear them from my inbox. For each item I decide whether to do it, delegate it, or delete it. Simple, but not always easy. In 2012, I reached the mythical “inbox zero” only about 50% of the time. My goal for the new year is to reach inbox zero 80% of the weeks in the year.

Disciplined Tracking

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have never been great at tracking my activities. I am resolved to change that in 2013. In the realm of fitness, I have hired a personal trainer, and invested in a FitBit (this little device tracks my physical activity throughout the day). For business activities, I am developing a dashboard for my company in Excel to keep track of key metrics. For productivity purposes, I have reinstalled RescueTime, to help me evaluate how I’m spending my time on the computer. I am resolved to reduce my computer time in the new year significantly.

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The Secret Weapon Most Small Businesses Don’t Know and Should

Google Places

I am constantly amazed at the number of small business people I run across who do not know about one of the greatest online tools available for marketing. When I mention the words “Google Places,” I usually get a blank stare in return. For all of you reading who just mentally shrugged, let me share a bit.

Google Place is a free service of the search giant. It is, in essence, your business listing for Google. As of mid-2011, Google owned over 65% of all searches, more than double of Bing (14%) and Yahoo (16%) combined. When someone does a Google Maps search for a business, the results that come up are populated by Google Places. Click on one of those little pins on the map and the page that comes up, hopefully chocked full of info, is a micro-version of their Google Places page.

What makes Google Places so important?

Here’s a few good reasons:

  • Search engine results pages (SERP’s) give priority to Places results. Google Places will come in at the top of any given search, thus raising the possibility of being found by targeted customers.
  • If someone is searching for a product along with a location name, the chances of conversion are much greater. You’ve probably got a buyer on your hands.
  • Even if your website is well optimized, it will always appear lower in the results. Organic search results appear further down than Google Places results.
  • It’s likely you will see an increase in customers, as Google Places brings in targeted business.
  • And last but certainly not least, it’s free!

Mobile Friendly

According to a recent study, 95% of smart phone users are searching for information about local businesses from their phone. This demographic of users tends to act quickly with over 80% taking action on their search results within one day. 77% of these people call or visit the local business they discovered in their search.

Google Places is designed to automatically format for mobile phones. If you have a Google Places page, this gives you the greatest mobile impact with the easiest interface and greatly increases the chances of customer conversion.

It’s Already There, so Claim it!

Here’s the thing. Google Places automatically generates Place pages. There are over 5 million out there now. Only 2.3 million have been claimed by actual businesses. That’s leaves over 2.7 million Place pages that are unclaimed and basically devoid of information. If you have not claimed your business Place page, you are leaving potential customers out in the cold. Not only will they have a harder time finding you, there will be no helpful information when they do.

If you claim your page, you have the ability to add location information, pictures, contact info, special deals… just about any kind of marketing you care to do.

Google has even integrated Google Places into Google+. Anything you add to your Place page will be reflected within their social media site. That’s nothing to sneeze at, either.

How Do I Claim It?

Simple. Go to www.google.com/placesforbusiness and they will walk you through the process. It involves Google sending you a verification postcard, so it doesn’t happen overnight. Overall, it’s a painless and fairly quick procedure and VERY much worth the effort. If you still don’t think you have time, I can do it for you. In the words of Stargate, “Hey, it’s what I do.”

Does your business have a Google Places page yet? Have you seen any results?

Planning a Weekend Worship Service

Worship time

Occasionally, I enjoy strolling through my old posts to see what I used to think. I ran across the following post from October of 2006 and I thought it was worth reposting. It details the process we went through of planning worship services during my time at Christ Family Fellowship in Corpus Christi. I still look back in amazement that we were this involved with a staff of two and a church of about 150 or so. This is not something I could convince Golf Course Road to try, nor have I even attempted with Broadway (considering I am the volunteer coordinator). If you are involved in worship planning, I’d love to know what you think about this. Enjoy…

*****

As I speak to other worship leaders across the country, I am amazed at the varied processes they use to plan worship services. Anyone who does it very often understands this is a process that is constantly changing, but I thought I would explain how I go about it. Maybe it will spur some ideas in someone else.

I took the Willow Creek model and married it to the leadership systems concept taught by Ministry Advantage. It may seem cumbersome at first glance, but the end result is very nice. It requires lots of advance planning by the coordinator (read: “Worship Minister”) and it in includes a large number of volunteers (read: “unpaid lay ministers”). This is born out of the concept that worship planning is too important to rest in the hands of one person planning it for an entire church body.

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Statute of Job Limitations

coffee-cup

I suppose this blog entry is more of a personal side note than anything else. It’s the morning after Christmas and I’m up alone, sitting in front of the fire before sunrise, just me and the dogs. I finding it a good time of personal reflection.

As of this week, I have officially been “unemployed” for a full year. I’ve applied for more jobs than I can remember and I’ve only been called in for two interviews. The status of my job search seems to be a constantly recurring theme in almost every conversation I have with friends. It’s growing very tiresome to keep giving the same response, “no, nothing yet,” and see the same look of caring and worry in their faces. I won’t even go into the amount of sleep I’ve lost because my mind won’t shut off at night, or wakes up too early thinking about it.

So when I look back on the past year, what is the reality of it all? Well…

  • I’ve had an extraordinary amount of free time to be able to do what I like and help people out with whatever they need.
  • I’ve been able to explore areas of interest that I didn’t really have time to indulge previously.
  • I have increased my knowledge, skills and abilities in the art of web design and social media (which is a good thing since that’s apparently what I’m going to be doing for a while).
  • I had the chance to work for Broadway Church of Christ as a part time media guy for several months, which I enjoyed very much. I even had the “big office” for most of that time.
  • I was able to confirm, thanks to my good friend Kit Mullins, that I am really not gifted at sales. Her patience and generosity, while not her sole intent, helped me better understand myself. Thank you Kit.
  • I was able to be home almost every day when my kids came home from school, as well as the entire summer. I estimate I gained an extra 442 hours of available family time.
  • I found that I have a host of friends who are very generous in their support. There have been a number of times when I didn’t know where the next bag of groceries would come from, only to find an anonymous gift waiting for me. This alone is a very humbling thing.
  • My love and respect for my wife has greatly increased, which is hard to do since it was so high already. As with anyone unemployed, there were many times when depression and anxiety held sway in my life. She has continued to be supportive and positive, as she always has been. Oh, and she has a job with insurance (hehehe).

I’m sure there is more, but that’s enough for now. I need to stoke the fire, literally, It’s getting low.

So here’s what I’m thinking. The statute of limitations on being unemployed should be one year. One year of constant job applications, regurgitating the same old information for people who most likely already have someone else in mind, is enough. God has provided what I’ve needed for the past year and he has promised he always will. If another job comes along and presents itself, praise the Lord. Until then, I am not unemployed. I may be underemployed, but that’s different. I will concentrate on doing what I do best… web design, graphic arts, writing and music. I work for Moyers Design, which happens to be me.

As I’ve been writing this, the sun has risen. Somewhat poetic, eh?

A Modern Day Tax Parable

taxes

[Photo credit: www.LendingMemo.com]

In the wake of our recent election and the looming “fiscal cliff” of 2012, I thought I would post this modern-day parable about our tax system. It’s been posted elsewhere under the title “Bar Stool Economics.” It may not be 100% correct, but it’s close enough to give us something to think about.

Suppose that everyday, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.00. They decided to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, it looked something like this.

The first 4 men, the poorest, would pay nothing.
The 5th would pay $1.00.
The 6th would pay $3.00.
The 7th would pay $7.00.
The 8th would pay $12.00.
The 9th would pay $18.00
And the 10th, the richest, would pay $59.00.

The ten men drank in the bar everyday and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until one day the bar owner threw them a curve ball. “Since you are all such good customers” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.00. Drinks for the ten men would now cost $80.00.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the 1st four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other 6 men? How could they divide the $20.00 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

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Top 3 Life Lessons I Learned from Agent Dash

Agent-DashI suppose I’ve been looking at Stepcase Lifehack a bit too much… and playing Agent Dash too much. If you don’t know what Stepcase Lifehack is, you can follow the link and check it out. If you don’t what Agent Dash is, let me explain. No, there is no time. Let me sum up (sorry, I had to throw a Princess Bride quote in there).

Agent Dash is, to quote Forbes Online:

“…a ridiculously simple and even more ridiculously addictive game in the vein of Temple Run, Jetpack Joyride, and others. All you have to do is collect diamonds and keep your agent on the not-so-straight yet incredibly narrow. You can purchase or earn upgrades to add to your agent’s arsenal of diamond-collecting toys, but these upgrades are practically copies of the ones you can find in Temple Run.

Agent Dash, however, differentiates itself with its super-cool graphics and not much else. At first I thought I would delete the game entirely. But after trying to tear myself away from this game and failing, I see that Agent Dash will stay on my iPad, saving the world from stray diamonds.”

It’s sort of like Temple Run meets The Incredibles. It seems rather silly to pull life lessons from a game on my iPad. There may be some serious ramifications about my allocation of time in all this, but there are three things that I’ve come to see have relevance in the real world as well.

Keep an eye on the horizon.

Agent Dash is all about running. That’s pretty much it. To make it challenging, the creators have put all manner of obstacles in your way. Barrels, barriers, sliding doors, electric fences… you must keep an eye out for what’s coming. The trick is, the game gets faster and faster. By the time you get to the 5th or 6th area, you are fairly flying. If you are just looking at what’s coming next, you’re doomed to get fried or flattened. You must be looking way ahead at obstacles down the path.

And so the same concept applies in life. It is extremely easy for me, and I assume others, to get mired in what’s happening right now. Walking around with the head down and worried about current circumstances seems to be pretty natural. I believe God has called us to something higher. We are told to look forward to something greater and our hope lies there. Any other way will undoubtably get us squashed against a boulder or crushed by a falling glass wall… spiritually speaking, of course.

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Marketing Your Music

Ariel HyattAfter spending many years in the music industry, I am continually amazed at how much things have changed. Almost everything I did as an executive at a music label in the late ’90’s can now be done with the help of 2 or 3 websites. The Rise of the Independents is well under way, which I think is a great thing.

There have been a number of articles written over the past few months about independent artists and what they should, and can, do to help kick off their career. Here is a great article, the first in a series of three, that includes a wealth of information. If you are an aspiring artist, or even an artist that’s been around a while making it on your own, this is a wonderful step-by-step guide for marketing your music.

In this first article, Ariel Hyatt from Ariel Publicity talks about several important areas:

  1. Digital distribution vs physical media
  2. Your online presence with your website, Facebook and YouTube (by the way, did you know that YouTube is the #2 search engine at this point?)
  3. Techniques for gathering email addresses
  4. Newsletters
  5. Touring and timing
  6. Merchandising and how to deal with the new digital paradigm at a live event

This is well worth your time to read and I would suggest subscribing. Enjoy and keep making good music.

Marketing Plan Tactics For Independent Musicians – Part 1 of 3: New Album Preparations

How to End the Deficit in 5 Minutes

Warren Buffett

How to End the Deficit in 5 Minutes

Warren Buffett, in a 2011 interview with CNBC, offers a great quote about the debt ceiling:

“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes,” he told CNBC. “You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.”

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified!  Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971 – before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven took one year or less to become the law of the land – all because of public pressure.

Here is the essence of the idea that was proposed:

Congressional Reform Act of 2012

1. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they’re out of office.

2. Congress (past, present and future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan,  just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.

Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/1/12.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women. Congress made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

An attorney in St. Louis, Jarrad Holst, has pointed out that there is a way to enact Buffett’s idea without the cooperation of Congress.  Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, a “Convention for proposing Amendments” is convened when called for by the legislatures of two-thirds of the states.  A proposed amendment would then need to be ratified by the legislatures of three-quarters of the states.  If that happens, and it is a very big if, Buffett’s deficit plan would become the law of the land.

That process would, however, take more than five minutes.

What do you think?

Generations

For the past several months, I have had the opportunity to be part of a class called Generations. It is offered each year by the Nonprofit Management Center and the Permian Basin Area Foundation. The class is targeted toward 20-30 year old young professionals and the purpose is to train the next generation for board service in local non-profit organizations.

It is a wonderful 8-week class and it thoroughly prepares you to carry your weight well as a member of a board. Although I am slightly older than the stated target for the class, I still got to participate. I was able to look at the information through slightly different eyes, that of an Executive Director of a non-profit. It allowed me to see what my board could be like at Mission Health Care. It also trained me for service elsewhere.

As of yesterday, I was voted onto the board of Community Concerts of Midland, soon to be monikered as Live on Stage. We offer a concert series each year consisting of high quality acts. It helps bring a wide range of arts to the Permian Basin. This past year they offered the Juggernaut Jug Band, the Celtic Tenors, the Harry James Orchestra, Michael Kaeshammer (pianist), On Broadway (a Broadway Revue) and Revolution (a tribute to the Beatles).

I’m not sure what role I may play, but I’m guessing my contribution may have something to do with websites.

And lastly… GO DAVID COOK! Congrats…