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Start making smaller to-do lists too. Long lists collect dust. When’s the last time you finished a long list of things? You might have knocked off the first few, but chances are you eventually abandoned it (or blindly checked off items that weren’t really done properly).

Long lists are guilt trips. The longer the list of unfinished items, the worse you feel about it. And at a certain point, you just stop looking at it because it makes you feel bad. Then you stress out and the whole thing turns into a big mess.

There’s a better way. Break that long list down into a bunch of smaller lists. For example, break a single list of a hundred items into ten lists of ten items. That means when you finish an item on a list, you’ve completed 10 percent of that list, instead of 1 percent.

Yes, you still have the same amount of stuff left to do. But now you can look at the small picture and find satisfaction, motivation, and progress. That’s a lot better than staring at the huge picture and being terrified and demoralized.

Whenever you can, divide problems into smaller and smaller pieces until you’re able to deal with them completely and quickly. Simply rearranging your tasks this way can have an amazing impact on your productivity and motivation.

And a quick suggestion about prioritization: Don’t prioritize with numbers or labels. Avoid saying, “This is high priority, this is low priority.” Likewise, don’t say, “This is a three, this is a two, this is a one, this is a three,” etc. Do that and you’ll almost always end up with a ton of really high- priority things. That’s not really prioritizing.

Instead, prioritize visually. Put the most important thing at the top. When you’re done with that, the next thing on the list becomes the next most important thing. That way you’ll only have a single next most important thing to do at a time. And that’s enough.

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There are plenty of ways to network with the internet quickly becoming the easiest, fastest and most cost effective way.

Hundreds of social and business networks have sprung up over the last few years. Some have stronger penetration in differentindustry sectors, in different geographic locations and differentdemographics, but each of them can do something for you and your business.

Making connections

Getting yourself connected online can help find new business opportunities, employees, or serve as an excellent resource for advice. We’ve included some of the different networks below and a brief snapshot of what each can provide you and your business.

LinkedIn (with a reported 65 million users) is possibly the biggest business network in the world. Allowing you to create your digital CV for others to find, LinkedIn is a great place to find new business contacts and build new business relationships.

Viadeo (which recently hit 30 million members) is similar to LinkedIn, allowing you to develop your profile online for other businesses and individuals to find and connect with you digitally worldwide.

Whilst Facebook is predominately seen as the home of university students with time to spare between lectures, the network has become a great way for companies to expand their reach in to new markets on a ‘social’ level – helping you to connect with a new audience.

Meetup.com lives somewhere between the online world and the “real world”. Providing a space to organise networking events for like-minded individuals, Meetup allows you to easily connect with local businesses to share ideas.

Some of the bigger players such as LinkedIn even provide iPhone applications allowing you to network through their site on the move, but in our opinion this will never replace the need to meet new and existing business contacts face to face and swap your Business Cards.

Another place for building your network and making connections is SlideShare, as suggested by Peter Hoffer. Peter has “published reports and presentations on topics that people will have an interest in – ranging from wine to sport… Online users can read something fun but see the skills that go behind making those reports.” For Peter this has been another great way of reaching out to new clients.

In the “real world”…

Networking “offline” at industry conferences and exhibitions is a great way to meet new people in your sector, share ideas (and a cup of coffee) and learn more about each others businesses and find new ways of working together. Unsurprisingly, making sure you have (and hand out) Business Cards at an event.

“Find out what interests people have other than their jobs…” says Heather Taylor. Ask the people you meet about their “hobbies, loves, favorite music, etc…” she continues, “then if you see something that would be of interest in that area, you can come forward with them that information. Not only will they love it but they will be touched that you a) listened to them, b) are interested in them as a person, c) aren’t just spamming them with queries about working with them.” Great advice Heather!

Couple Heather’s advice with this nugget of common sense from Chrystal Rae and you’re bound for success – always remember what your mama said, – be nice to others and they will be nice to you!” Similarly, Amanda smartly notes that “if someone pays you a compliment, make sure you honour it by thanking them. If you don’t do this you have created a dead end for that part of your networking process.” Yet another great tip for making (and keeping) contacts!

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The internet is full of distractions and endless excuses to procrastinate. It will always be easier to play a game of Stackopolis than it is to complete your taxes, file your expenses, send an important email or finalise a design for a client.

Are distractions sabotaging your efforts to get ahead? Do you feel like you’re constantly plagued by technology or interruptions by others? Lurking around us are forces—labeled demons—that interrupt our flow of attention and psychic energy …

Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction” is an invaluable and affirming resource for both professional service providers and consumers. There are many publications on human behavior, time management, and specific techniques for getting better organized at home and at work. This one pulls it all together, in an easily approachable, enjoyable, and thorough way. Dr. Markel presents realistic examples of challenges plaguing millions of people from every walk of life and level of accomplishment. And she follows those examples with solutions that work. Give yourself the gift of this book to enhance your own life and the lives of those around you.”

10 ways to eliminate distractions

1. Turn off your email, IM and Twitter and phone notifications
2. Turn off the Internet. Pull the plug!
3. (If you need the internet to work) find a way to block out distractions
4. Headphones – music is a great way to fall into your own little (focussed) world
5. Create a DO NOT DISTURB sign… co-workers will soon get the hint
6. Clear workspace clutter – create your own Zen Desk, free of ‘stuff’
7. Clear computer clutter – create your own Zen Desktop, free of distracting icons
8. Handle interruptions – find ways to quickly get back to the task at hand
9. Use minimal programs (without all the distracting bells-and-whistles)
10. Distraction time – allow yourself 10 minutes to unwind once every hour!

What did you have to say?

We asked MOO’s customers for their advice and you shared some fantastic tips to help other small businesses and freelancers. Some of our favourites include “turn on the radio (low, just enough so you can hear it)” from Samantha Vincent. She continues “it distracts you enough but still keeps you focused so you are not trailing off reading blogs!”, apart from the MOO Blog, of course!

Advice from Gareth Rees was to hide the remote control for the TV – an easy place to find distractions for sure. We liked Jade’s advice – “make sure you eat before you get focused so you dont start to think “ooh I’m hungry” and waste a lot of time making/buying food” – although we do enjoy the odd cake (or two) at MOO HQ. The idea of posting “GET BACK TO WORK” signs everywhere from Petrina Reyes made us smile – although you’ll have to be careful that making all those signs doesn’t get in the way of your work!

Getting Things Done

As well as helping you beat the distractions and wonders of the internet we wanted to share some more tips on improving your productivity‘ (from the mind of David Allen). David’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) method and book are all about the art of stress-free productivity. He’s delivered talks at Google and other big institutions, but that doesn’t mean to say that the advice isn’t transferable to your small business.

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This is uncomplicated – put your content online in multiple places where it can be found by people you may develop a business relationship with.

Here is a word related to this that I really appreciate – repurpose.

Writing is difficult. Henry Ford is attributed to saying “thinking is the hardest work there is.” The chances are you already have good content that can be used to create other good content. For example, about 50% of this e-book is repurposed from other content we had previously created, only improved as it is edited and repurposed.

Press Releases – As an editor of a newsletter I will tell you that I want you to send me your press release. I want to publish your content. I want your expert slant on your topic. I want you to approach me so I don’t have to spend any time looking for what is new, trendy, important, relevant, etc. Do not be shy or apprehensive about submitting your press releases to news organizations. They may not always use it but there certainly is no harm in sending it.

Here are 8 Tips from our media kit on writing a press release that show my personal preferences.

  1. It has a headline (but not a cute or clever one) that easily identifies what the press release is about.
  2. It has a sub-headline that offers an additional perspective on the press release.
  3. It has a date, city and state the press release is originating from.
  4. The first paragraph is a summary of the press release.
  5. The next paragraphs go into detail about the press release subject matter.
  6. It includes quotes from subject matter experts or company executives.
  7. It closes with complete contact data for the company and person submitting the press release including the website URL.
  8. Optimize your press release with your keywords in the headlines and content and provide some tags in parentheses at the end.

Where To Distribute Your Press Release – Insurance Industry

  • http://www.ambest.com/
  • http://www.businessinsurance.com
  • http://www.insurancebroadcasting.com
  • http://www.insurancejournal.com/
  • http://www.insurancenewsnet.com/
  • http://www.nuco.com/
  • http://www.roughnotes.com/
  • http://www.ultimateinsurancelinks.com/ (Don’t submit your press release here but you will find a very comprehensive list of all insurance media outlets at this site.)

Where To Distribute Your Press Release – Free

  • http://www.articledashboard.com
  • http://www.1888pressrelease.com
  • http://www.ezinearticles.com
  • http://www.i-newswire.com – one free press release per 7 days

Where To Distribute Your Press Release – For A Fee

  • http://www.prweb.com (emediawire)
  • http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home
  • https://portal.prnewswire.com
  • http://www.distributeyourarticles.com
  • https://www.blogger.com/start

Blogs & Posts – Repurpose your press release for your blog or social media post. Pay close attention to making sure your keywords are in your headline, content, and tags.

Where To Place Your Blogs / Posts

  • www.linkedin.com
  • www.insurancecampus.org
  • www.twitter.com
  • www.facebook.com

Ask Yourself This: Would I rather spend hours making telephone dials, or would I rather spend a few minutes a day putting my message for FREE in places where the exact people who are most likely to be interested in my information are going to see it?

Advanced Techniques

Up to this point, you don’t need to have a great deal of technical expertise to do anything recommended.

From here on, however, it gets a bit more complex and if you want to skip right to the summary, no worries, but before you do, think about this.

You may be in a leadership position where some of this is going to be brought up. Even a small overview may improve your perspective and ultimate decision. Also, knowing how to get started is often the biggest blocking point, so struggle through this if you can.

Another important point is that most of the software or service providers you need have tutorials at their website, and we hopefully, are pointing you to the right websites.

Website Audio & Video – Here is one way (the way we do it): create a PowerPoint Presentation with audio, capture it using Camtasia, Edit it using Sony Vegas, and convert it to an flv file using FLV Producer which will also give you the HTML code to put on our website. There are other ways but if you don’t know how to do this yet, don’t try to learn it on your own – get some help.

  • Camtasia – http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp
  • Vegas Movie Studio – http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/moviestudio
  • FLV Producer – http://www.flvproducer.com

Content Management (WordPress) – WordPress is free and will allow you to have amazing functions on your website using “plug-ins (that are also free), and you won’t have to learn how to write PHP code or hire a coding expert. However, learning to use WordPress will take some time and focus but would be well worth the effort, and a little bit of knowledge here has the potential to make you look like a genius to your associates. Complete information and resources can be found online at http://wordpress.org/

Shopping Carts – Putting a shopping cart on your website for your products and services is mostly accomplished by having an account with a service provider. We use 1shoppingcart and another to try is merchant services from PayPal.

Merchant Services –Merchant services refers to the processing of credit cards, which of course, does not necessarily need to be done online. You may be able to bundle a common service provider to operate your shopping care software interface and process your credit cards such as PayPal, or you may split the functions as we have done using 1ShoppingCart mentioned above and Intuit as a credit card processor.

Google Analytics – If you are into measurement, metrics and analytics, OMG, you are going to love what Google will provide you for free. Don’t read any more; go to this website immediately. www.google.com/analytics

Screen Capture – Here is another tool that I couldn’t be without. There are all kind of things that I want to capture from my screen for pasting in other applications like PowerPoint. “Snag It” from TechSmith – http://www.techsmith.com

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Southwest has a tag line at the end of some there commercials that says “you are now free to get up and move about the country.”

Now ask yourself, what has you chained to your desk or “physically locked” in some other way?

As I write this paragraph I happen to be sitting on my balcony in Saint Augustine Florida on a 5-week stay even though my office is in Ohio. I don’t lose one bit of productivity being here rather than there. Yes, in my case I am the business owner, but one of our key employees wanted to move from Ohio to Phoenix, AZ about two years ago and is more productive than ever working out of his home.

The technology exists for you to free yourself and the first thing you have to change is your mind-set about how you work.

Here is a list of “must have” communication tools. If you aren’t using all of these, you may be missing a big opportunity to dramatically increase your productivity and/or free yourself from your desk.

Skype – I don’t know how I functioned before I had a Skype account. I talk to our Phoenix employee several times a day, with full audio and screen sharing capacity, (now read attentively) for free. If both parties (or several parties) all have a Skype account, they can be one-to-one or many-to-many calls with each other for an unlimited number of calls and amount of time.

I also have a Skype upgrade that lets me use my computer as a regular telephone and make and receive unlimited calls and time with anyone in North America for about $3.00 a month. The quality isn’t perfect but I do like the price.

An Online Meeting Account – We use Go To Meeting / Go To Webinar, but there are others. I started out in the insurance industry as an agent with appointments. All my appointments or interviews now are online where I have the full ability to share my desktop and deliver audio to anyone anywhere in the world that has Internet access. You may think you have to physically meet with someone to conduct business, but have you thought that the other person may find it less intrusive and be more open to an online meeting – saving all the time and travel issues. If you like traffic and airports, great, but they are a lot less necessary than a lot of people think.

Mobile Technology – The movie “Money Never Sleeps” is going to be released in a few weeks. One of the trailers has Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko receiving his old Radio Shack mobile phone he had when he went into prison 20 years ago. I remember when that type of phone was totally cool and state of the art. The phone most of us are using right now is going to seem just as antiquated as Gordon Gecko’s phone in a few years. In the next couple of years, as our service contracts come up, we are going to all be switching to 4g and whatever will be next. Get ready for another explosion of communication capacity.

Tablets – Tablets are going to be another huge communication change. Remember that argument a few years ago about “bricks” vs. “clicks.” We all need to think about our business model and how communication technology will impact us. How you are going to be communicating with your customers in the future should be a major consideration for any big decisions you will be making. Being cautious with huge commitments to “bricks” ought to at least be a guideline.

If you will embrace the communication technology available via Skype, Go-To-Meeting and other mobile devices, you will save significant time and money and be more productive, which is not an insignificant statement.