The Friday Five: Is Our Education System Hurting Entrepreneurship?

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In this week’s Friday Five … how our education system might be failing entrepreneurship, blogging strategy, Pinterest tips for small biz owners, and more …

Why Driving Direct Sales Shouldn’t be the Only Goal of Your Company Blog

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With the rise of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, some online marketers have ditched their blogs in favor of social networking.  Yet others jump into blogging without a clear strategy — only to give up when their blog doesn’t translate into direct profits or new business in the door.

Are there some businesses and entrepreneurs who drive profits from their blog by converting audience into paying customers?  Absolutely.  But if you launch your blog with the goal of driving profits as your main goal, you’re likely to be sorely disappointed.

I have found that the single greatest benefit of my blogs is that they allow me to position myself as an experienced thought leader on the topics on which I blog.

For example, two weeks ago I attended a local chamber of commerce event and exchanged business cards with several potential clients. If they’re like me, they visited my Web site or “Googled” me to do some due diligence. As such, they were likely to find several years worth of blog posts on topics related specifically to the type of projects I discussed with them.  Hopefully, those posts portray me as a thought leader in my field.

In other words: I know what I’m talking about.

Not a direct sale — but certainly helpful in closing the deal.

My blogs are also the primary way in which I build my personal brand. All of my content on Facebook, Twitter (and even some content on Instagram) flows from my blog posts. I blog about specific topics on which I want to be “branded.”  This helps my long-term word of mouth business, and has even brought potential clients through the door.

I also get a significant (and growing) amount of Google Search traffic to my blogs. This is from people searching specifically for topics on which I blog about.

This is related to my point about personal branding, but when you Google my name, my personal blog comes up first.  When you Google my company name, my company Web site comes up first.  And it all links to the type of content I want people to see when they search for me.

I have clients who have been referred to my by friends who regularly read my blog. I have had clients who called me because of something they read on my blog.  And, I’ve landed clients who went to my blog only after meeting me face-to-face.

In all cases, my blog was helpful in portraying me as a thought leader and building my personal brand, which contributes to direct and indirect growth of my company.

Cross-posted at EngageGravina.com.

How to Productive While Working from Home

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As I mentioned in this post, I worked from my home office for seven years. While I now have and prefer a separate office space, I can understand why many choose to work from home. According to this Forbes article from last year, one in five Americans works from home, and it’s estimated that the number of Americans working from home is expected to skyrocket by 63% during the next five years.

Working from home isn’t for everybody (I’ve worked with folks for whom it was a disaster), but there are some simple things that anyone can employ to make working from home more productive and fulfilling.  Here are some of those tips:

1) Set a routine.

The hardest part about working from home is not having a routine. When you’re working in a office, you’re typically there for 8 hours and have a little break for lunch during the afternoon. When you set your own schedule, it’s easy to be too relaxed about it. You wake up whenever you want, eat whenever you want, and take a break whenever you want. Before you know it, you’ve been working for 12 hours and haven’t gotten much done. If you want to be productive while working at home, set a routine. Determine a period of the day when you should be working. Schedule a couple breaks in there. But aside for that, treat your job just the same as you would if you were working in an office environment.

3) Get rid of any distractions.

If you’re working from home, there can be a lot of distractions. Don’t let them get in the way of your productivity. If you have young kids who are at home during the day, it might be a good idea to find someone to watch them so that you are not juggling work and childcare at the same time. You should also turn off any electronics, like the radio or television. Refrain from checking social media too much as well, as those things can easily become an hour-long distraction.

4) Create a home office.

Even though you are working from home, you want to feel like you are in a professional setting. Find some space in your home, no matter how small it is, where you can set up your office or desk. Make sure that it is in an area where it is relatively quiet, if there are others home at the same time as well. If you create a comfortable work environment for yourself at home, you’ll be able to get more done.

5) Get out every once in awhile.

One of the more difficult things about working from home is being by yourself for extended periods of time. Sometimes you just need human interaction. If you find that you are getting a little stir-crazy, schedule some off-site work days. Find a Starbucks or a coffee shop with WiFi and spend a few hours working there. Getting out every once in awhile will help you refocus mentally.

6) Be committed.

The most important thing to remember when working from home is to be committed. Be just as dedicated and determined as you would with any other job. There are many great benefits to working remotely, such as having a flexible schedule. Take advantage of them.

Productivity Habits of the U.S. Presidents

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It’s President’s Day, a holiday that originally coincided with George Washington’s birthday. In the 1970’s, however, it was moved to the Monday before his birthday, and turned into a day to honor all of our U.S. Presidents.

As such, I thought I’d take this chance to look at some of the best productivity hacks employed by some of the leaders of the free world.  From sharp axes to afternoon naps, here are some of the things that have kept our presidents productive:

Washington: Maximizing Strengths and Listening to Your Team

As this Lifehacker post points out, one of the secrets to George Washington’s success was his ability to listen to his entire team (even dissenting voices) and make tough decisions based on that advice:

“George Washington decided to use guerrilla tactics instead of facing the British head-on as was the custom at the time. This wasn’t just a decision that came overnight of course. Washington and his generals had to look at the strengths of the American army and figure out how to maximize them, even if that meant breaking long-standing rules of war.”

Washington instinctively knew that, “when taking on an enemy that was far bigger than him, he looked to anyone—regardless of age or rank—for ideas.”

Lincoln: Sharpen Your Axe

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

As the quote above implies, Abraham Lincoln knew the value of preparation. He knew that, failure to plan on the front end can lead to failure to execute on the back end. There is, of course, a difference between preparation and analysis paralysis (few would doubt Honest Abe was a man of action), but aiming before you fire is rarely the wrong course of action. As this LifeOptimizer post points out:

When they have a project to work on, many people just work on it directly with little or no preparation. To the contrary, smart people prepare things well in advance and that way they outperform those with little or no preparation. They accomplish the job in less time and with less stress. That’s what I call working smart.

Teddy Roosevelt: Constantly Expand Your Mind

Like him or not, Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most mythically productive leaders in American history. During the course of his career, he served as a New York state assemblyman, frontier rancher (and sheriff), New York City Police Commissioner, war hero, Secretary of the Navy, Vice President of the United States, and, of course, President.  As this Los Angeles Times piece points out:

Along the way, T.R. found the time to write 40 books and hundreds of magazine articles and book reviews. He rode horses, boxed, rowed, played tennis and polo and skinny-dipped in the Potomac. Oh, yeah, he also won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War.

There were a number of productivity hacks Teddy employed, but one of the most striking to me was how he always fit time into his super-busy schedule for personal development. This Casting Out Nines post examines Teddy’s daily to-do lists, specifically his scheduling of as much as “4.5 hours a day” of reading each day.

Nate Desmond writes at CollegePlus that Teddy:

“Made learning a life habit. While enforcing the law on the windswept prairies of the Dakota Badlands, Sheriff Roosevelt carried a book to fill his spare moments. Even in the White House, President Roosevelt purportedly read an average of five books a week.”

The Nap Times of Kennedy, LBJ, and Reagan

One of the best things we can do to help boost our daily productivity is take more naps. According to this bit of research, a “solid 10 minute nap” can go a long way to making us more productive.

So it should come as no surprise that some of our more recent presidents (as this Filemobile post points out) employed daily naps as part of their routine:

President John F. Kennedy ate his lunch in bed and then settled in for a nap—every day!

President Lyndon B. Johnson took a nap every afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in order to break his day up into “two shifts.”

Though criticized for it, President Ronald Reagan famously took naps as well.

Obama: Avoid Decision Fatigue

Some recent interviews provide insights into our our current Commander in Chief remains productive. As this Fast Company article points out, President Obama works hard to avoid “decision fatigue” — something that derail even the most successful leaders and entrepreneurs.

According to LifeHacker:

Decision fatigue refers to the idea that people tend to make worse decisions after having made a lot of decisions. Much like muscle fatigue, if you flex your ‘decision’ muscle too much, it will fail you.

That’s one reason Obama told Vanity Fair he only wears gray or blue suits as part of his effort to pare down decisions. He has “too many other decisions to make” to have to make simple decisions such as what to eat or wear.  He also employs a simple “Agree-Disagree-Let’s Discuss” checkmark system on decision memos that make their way to his desk.

For more information on research about decision fatigue, and some great tips to help avoid it, read James Clear’s blog post here.

The Friday Five: Can’t-Miss Tweets from the Past Week

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Small business tech, can’t-miss tax deductions, the freelance economy, and a special message from @RepUnderwoodSC (yes, we love House of Cards) — all part of our “Friday Five” can’t-miss tweets from the past week:

https://twitter.com/gwinnettprobiz/status/434346190461992960