With stress-levels running high and tension peaking, another creative deadline looms on the horizon. The project has progressed to this point, but, now, you are failing in the final lap of the race. You are at a standstill. Creatively drained and out of ideas, you weigh options on how to escape the black hole of this project; you embrace the horror that you cannot muster the motivation to see this project through to completion. How did I get myself into this mess…Again?1. Relax to Harness Your CreativityFirst of all, relax. The problem is not that you cannot come up with a creative solution, the problem is that the solution will not be revealed until you have overcome the stressed-out state you are in. When you are in this condition, you are not at your creative best. Besides, this is the same type of deadline that you have dealt with before. This is nothing new. You have survived difficult deadlines before and you will survive this one. Stress can be a silent killer. Your blood pressure is elevated and your body is dealing with higher hormone levels. Take a walk. Take a bath. Go to the gym. Do some yoga. You need to do anything that helps you to calm down and relax, with the exception of alcohol or drugs-we need you with a clear head, after all! Just as in golf, speed and power during a swing, can only be achieved with tension-free arms and wrists. The looser your wrists, the faster your swing will be. 2. Evaluate Your Project PressureHave you really gone over the needed work done to complete the project. Often times, we build up a project in out minds and make it overly cumbersome. The project might be completed in a short amount of time if you haven’t fully evaluated the job. I have procrastinated projects because I thought that it would take several hours to complete, only to find out that when I truly embraced the scope of the project, I was able to complete the work in under an hour. Even if you go over some of the less essential tasks of a project, you will benefit. You might be possibly missing some key point that can aid you in project completion. Evaluate the project and you will feel much more in control of your life, which will lower your stress level as well.3. Isolation Helps You Harness Creativity in Crunch TimeGet alone! Clear your calendar. Cancel your appointments. Shut the blinds. Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. Turn off your phone. Not just to vibrate, turn it off! No chatting, videoconferences, Face Time, Google Hangouts, or Skype. No web browsing. No social media. Turn it all off. You need to isolate yourself so you can really focus on getting through this project. A couple of hours of uninterrupted working can make all the difference in a project. When I work from home, this time for me is in the early morning hours before the kids are awake. I am better off going to bed at a decent hour, and getting up pre-dawn to work, because I am well rested.4. Comfort Keeps Project Pressure Under ControlMake sure your surroundings are comfortable. Make sure the lighting is good in the room. Keep the temperature where you need it to be for your comfort. Turn on a fan if you need it. Wear comfortable shoes, and clothing. There are no expectations for you today, except to get that project complete. You are isolated today, so you wont be meeting with anyone. So it is casual Friday! Also, surround yourself with comforting music. For me, Jazz music helps me get into a relaxed state of mind. You need to do what will help you feel at ease. Eat your favorite food. Drink your favorite beverage. (No alcohol. See #1) Be comfortable.5. Stimulation Helps You Harness Your Creativity Under Project Crunch TimeOnce you have completed the project preparation, you can begin the fun part: creativity! This is after all, the reason that you are working on the project. You are a creative dynamo with unstoppable innovative ideas! It is time to get pumped up. It is time to stimulate your mind, body and soul. Whether you consume it hot, cold, or in a candy bar, caffeine is America’s stimulant of choice. Its time to get your caffeine on! Music that moves you is next. Find a tune that gets you out of your chair. We need endorphins! Have a variety of stimulating websites, design books, etc that can motivate you to do great things. I love looking at architectural magazines. I get so many creative ideas from them. Another source of creative stimulation are creative blogs. I have a dozen blogs that I read frequently that fuel my creativity. They deal with varying topics from arts and crafts to cooking. Is there a YouTube video that gets you motivated? Get some visual stimulation and you will be able to get the project done. You should feel great at this point because you are living the dream! You are completing the project. You are a proud member of the creative class.Photo Credit: iam_photography, Creative Commons License, Some Rights Reservedhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/iam_photo/1398724381/
Efficiency vs. Effectiveness – A Small Business Dilemma
Capitalism in Action: Efficiency
In business schools around the world, M.B.A. candidates are prepared to return to the corporate workplace, armed with tools to make business more efficient. Finance makes the most efficient use of funds. Marketing aims to bring the most efficient return of capital invested. Management attempts to make the most efficient use of human and technological capital of a business. Efficiency is good. It ensures that profits are maximized and that waste is minimized. It is a foundational principle of modern business analysis. We analyze operations to make them more efficient, thus making the operation more profitable. Profits keep a business growing and growing businesses need workers. The business is now a job-creating machine. Profits are re-invested into capital equipment that enables the business to reach additional possibilities of production. The business now lowers production cost which makes the enterprise even more efficient. Profits swell and are returned to the shareholders as dividends. This is capitalism in action. This is efficiency. This is the mantra of most business school programs and the desire of most small business owners.
The Harmony of Effectiveness and Efficiency
Small business owners have a dilemma: How do I balance efficiency and effectiveness in my business. Entrepreneurs need to question the purpose of the business. Why does the business exist? Is my business doing the right things? Am I strategically working in the right areas? Efficiency needs to be tempered with effectiveness to organically grow the business. When a small business owner loses sight of the purpose of the organization, efficiency takes over as the predominant theme. Efficiency alone produces less than with effectiveness combined. Efficiency needs work in harmony with effectiveness – form and function, Yin and Yang, left-brain and right-brain, etc. The balance of these two ideals for a small business creates a robust, growing business with a vibrant business culture: A business that is profitable as well as conscious of its stakeholder community. People become a focus of the small business. Without effective and efficient people, a small business will fail to produce the best results.
Ideas for Creating a Business Environment of Effectiveness and Efficiency
Review Your Business Strategy – Set aside some time every month to review your business strategy. Ask yourself: Am I working in the right business areas? Review your personal business goals. What is your exit strategy for the business?
Evaluate Profitability – Make sure that your business is making a profit. Business owners need to make sure their product and service offerings have sufficient profit margins to ensure growth. Make sure you know which activities generate the highest profit margin.
Check Your Production Capacity – How many units of a product can you make in a day? What is your maximum throughput? How many service based clients can you handle at one time? If you don’t know your production capacity, then you won’t know when it is appropriate to scale your business.
Plan for Growth – What happens if your business doubles in the next 90 days? Are employees trained to handle the additional workload, or do you need begin training now? How ready are you ready to scale your operation to capture the opportunity? Do you have a written set of procedure for your business? Make a written growth action plan that addresses these issues.
Photo Credit: MAMJODH
via Flickr - Creative Commons License
As I was finishing my undergraduate degree in the late 90’s, I asked a question: Why did college textbooks have to be so expensive? I started to brainstorm with a colleague about the possibility of an affordable electronic device that could be loaded with all of your textbooks for college at a reduced price. We did some research and realized that there were Palm Pilot and Pocket PC devices already in the marketplace, but no one seemed to be working on a project involving books. There seemed to be an opportunity in the market. We went to work on creating an electronic device that could be loaded with books targeted to college students. We got legal counsel, prepared non-disclosure agreements, and worked on an interface design. We needed a prototype. We found an electronics engineering student at the University joined our team and began making the prototype. Just as the prototype was finished, Sony announced a new ebook device that would hit the market in 90 days. We were crushed. The funny thing is that the device failed. The market wasn’t ready for an ebook reader yet. It took nearly a decade for ebooks to be accepted into the mainstream.
Bindrup’s Advice: Be on the lookout for emerging trends, but don’t get too far ahead of the curve.
(Photo: Dimitar Nikolov
, Creative Commons License, Some Right Reserved)
When I first started doing freelance work as a graphic designer, life was pretty simple. My daily routine consisted of finding clients who needed graphic design jobs and then producing the design work that I had gotten from my clients. As my business grew, I found my role as graphic designer decreasing and quickly transforming into the role of a manger and owner of a small advertising agency. It was a scary time for me. I was 24 years old and way outside of my comfort zone. Growth brings a unique set of challenges to an inexperienced small business owner. Especially one as ill prepared as I was. I had never had a class on running a small business, had little preparation in accounting, and had never even heard of strategic planning. During this time of rapid growth and business expansion, I would get frustrated because I was often unclear of the role I needed to fill. I had gotten into business because I was a highly skilled technician, not because I was a great manager. Everyday there were important decisions that had to be made about the business. I was sure that I was not making proper decisions and I worried about the future ramifications of those decisions. One day I sat down very frustrated and said to myself: I have to figure out what my job is. What do I do on a daily basis as the owner of this small business? The following is the result of that first strategic planning session in my head. I scrawled the following 3 job functions on a note pad.
1. Ensure Profitability
2. Strengthen Relationships (Clients & Vendors)
3. Market Effectively
It was a simple start. I later added 5 additional functions:
4. Direct Creative
5. Control Quality
8. Bring in Business
Finally, I crossed out Vision and brought it under #6 so it now read: Communicate the Vision.
I had a simplified set of job functions for myself as a small business owner. This piece of paper served to remind me not to get so caught up in the daily tasks at the business that I was not working on my business in the area, which I had outlined. I carried this piece of paper with me for several years. I had included a photo of the ragged-edged, stained note pad that I used to document my job as a small business owner. Today, It still serves as a reminder for me to pay attention to the most important job functions I have to manage in order to grow a successful small business.