Should I Accept Your Coffee Invitation?

10 Questions that help me choose wisely

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“Let’s grab coffee sometime.”

How do you respond to that?

Do you add the coffee appointment to your already brimming calendar? Do you refuse all coffee appointments? Do you put off answering? 

On the day I began writing this, an article from Entrepreneur magazine called Why I Don’t Want to Have Coffee with You was being circulated.  It was an interesting take by a small business owner, and a couple of fellow small business owners I respect praised the article for encouraging discipline when it comes to this practice. Then a respectful rebuttal article, Why I Do Want to Have Coffee with You was written, which was also interesting.

So, I decided to share the article on my Facebook page and ask for feedback. It generated lively dialog, which was fascinating. 

Initial feedback on my page was completely opposite of what appeared on my other friend’s. Most felt the author’s take leaned toward being self-absorbed. As is often the case with me, I land somewhere in the middle.

So, if you ask me to coffee, here are some questions I may ask myself before I say “Yes” or “No.” Feel free to use these questions yourself when you have similar opportunities. 

  1. What’s the purpose of our get together? Are you wanting to have coffee so we can make a real connection (not necessarily a lifelong friendship but a sincere, warm acquaintance) or under the guise of “tossing ideas around” so you could push me to buy or join something? You know the difference.
  2. Could something bigger than business be happening? There are times that a conversation becomes something more important than business. (Those practicing a faith may consider these “divine appointments.”) If I have a hard-and-fast rule not to have coffee with someone unless it would be good for my business, I may miss something very important.
  3. Could you become a good friend, or at least a pleasant business acquaintance? Sometimes you hit it off with someone and make a good friend out of what started as a networking opportunity. And even if you don’t become personal friends, there may be value in our having a warm business-based acquaintance–if nothing more than for the joy of knowing a good person.
  4. Would it be good for future business? While I may wonder whether the time will have an immediate “payoff” for current business (and let’s be honest, many professionals think this way) is it possible that the seeds we plant now will pay off later? For at least three of my VA clients, we met weeks in advance of any money changing hands for my serving as a VA.
  5. Does our meeting have a reasonable goal/agenda? While the above points may be valuable, I probably don’t have time to have several “Let’s grab coffee” meetings a week. There’s nothing wrong with being wise with my time. Can we have at least a loose purpose to the meeting? (Although, I admit, one of my best client relationships came about because someone else said, “You two need to know each other.” At first we weren’t sure why. It became evident the more we talked.)
  6. Can the meeting happen in some other way? The original article mentioned this, and in the case of two of the above clients, we met at a conference we were already attending, and with the other, via Skype. Technology can be of help and a 20-30 minute phone or online call saves the additional time spent commuting, chit chatting over the coffee, etc. This works particularly well with ongoing relationships where you already communicate regularly (i.e. with clients)
  7. Do we currently do business together? The original article noted the “difference” between small and large clients and the attention they would get. That’s a slippery slope. A “small” client now may have more work later, or be connected to a potential “bigger” client they would recommend you to. If we currently have a working relationship–small or large–it’s probably wise for me to be open to cultivating that relationship, if for no other reason than to appreciate you for trusting me with your business.
  8. Have we had coffee before? Depending on the purpose of getting together, I may need to discern whether these sessions are becoming complaining sessions (i.e. if a colleague or co-worker goes over the same stuff each time) and to evaluate how our meetings tend to go. Do we walk away uplifted or frustrated over what feels like a waste of time?
  9. Are you suddenly more interested in me because I could help your business? I’ve had at least a couple of occasions where I run into someone I’ve known for years but don’t have regular interaction with, and either the conversation ends up being all about them (i.e. lacking mutual back-and-forth small talk that would be expected) or they are suddenly interested in talking with me because they now own a new business and think I would be great for it, when I am pretty sure if they weren’t in this new business, they wouldn’t be reaching out to me. I can see right through that and I’m not inclined to go further in the conversation.
  10. Can you or I be of true help to each other? In some cases, a person who wants to have coffee needs some encouragement, resources or even some coaching/counseling–or maybe just be put in touch with another company or vendor that can serve them better. If I discern that is happening, be prepared that I may give you a referral and decline future invitations. Or, it may be a great opportunity to get to know what the other does so we can make referrals in the future to one another.

 

The question of whether I should have coffee with you can’t be answered in a black or white way. It really needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis, with humility balanced with wisdom.

 

Now You:

Question: Do you accept coffee invitations? Why or why not? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Teamwork Activity: Are you puzzled?

Let's have some fun...

illinois puzzle

Through the years, I have used a puzzle of a United States map to demonstrate principles of personality, productivity and communication at workshops I conduct. When preparing for my latest workshop, I discovered that Illinois had come up missing. My husband carefully took a printout I made of the state and crafted a brand new piece. Sweet, right?  (It worked at the event, but guess what I found a couple of weeks afterward?)

Puzzles are a great way to inspire teamwork in the workplace, so today I’m offering you a practical suggestion to build a sense of camraderie with your coworkers. That type of culture helps us all beat stress and feel a little less overwhelmed.

Objective:

This exercise requires cooperation, strategy, and project management. It cannot be completed by just one person, although various employees may spend more time on it than others. The goal is to complete a project using something from everyone, and to celebrate the accomplishment without having to identify the “best” contributor.

What you’ll need:

  • A puzzle made up of enough pieces that you can equally divide among all employees in a particular department.
  • Sandwich baggies or envelopes to divide the pieces equally. Each employee should have no more than 10 pieces.
  • Flat surface in a reasonably open area, but not in the way

What to do:

Announce that the team will be assembling a puzzle together over the course of a period of time that you select. (I recommend your first puzzle take no longer than two weeks to complete.)

Distribute baggies or envelopes with an equal number of puzzle pieces to employees to each employee.

Tell employees that they are to contribute to the puzzle one time per day. Contributing can be as simple as laying one of their pieces on the table, or spending a couple of minutes trying to fit together pieces that are there. They can only “work on” the puzzle for less than five minutes per day (either contribute pieces or trying to assemble.)

Throughout the time period (for our example, two weeks) you should begin to see the puzzle come together. At first, there will just be loose pieces on the table. However, as the supply grows, there may be some attempts to fit pieces together.

Be sure to encourage along the way and establish some type of reward the whole team can enjoy once the puzzle is completed (i.e. lunch brought in.)

You may wish to frame the puzzle and hang somewhere to remind team members of the fun you had!

Report back: Submit your photo of your team with your completed puzzle by May 30, 2015. I’ll do a drawing for a free copy of my book, Boost Your Workplace Morale: A Practical Guide for Employees (and Their Managers) from the submissions and share the winning photo (be sure all in the photo are okay with it being publicized.)

A Thank You and a Special Message

Looking back, looking forward

Beth at coffee shop

I’m sitting here at one of my favorite writing places, enjoying a cup of coffee, thankful as I wrap up the 10th Birthday month of HOPE Unlimited. I thought it fitting to take today’s blog post to reflect a bit and share with my reader family my thanks and what they can look forward to in the future.

By the time this post goes live, and the birthday month is over, I’ll have given away 10 Chick-Fil-A cards, thanks to Sims & Karr Financial Solutions, provided several blog posts with lists of 10 great helps to overwhelmed professionals, shared our first collaborative post (thanks, contributors–join in the next one here!) and have added several new clients.

On a personal level, I celebrated a birthday, enjoyed a meaningful wedding, got into a bowling league, (enjoying the surprise of reaching a personal goal and bowling my highest game ever) and journeyed through the sometimes confusing and frustrating process of discerning some vocational/business choices with the help of God, my husband and family, and dear friends. I’m also seeing the effect of stress on people as a whole and coming to understand that I can continue to be of help to overwhelmed professionals, whether directly in client support or indirectly in providing resources.

The tricky part of that is to make wise decisions about what and how much to offer and when, since HOPE is a business with a mindset influenced by ministry and I hope, generosity, and I need to be careful not to become too much of an overwhelmed professional myself! I’m taking it one leading at a time.

So this month (May 2015), I am offering access to the Virtual Training Classroom (VTR) Conquer Your Calendar: 12 Keys to Taking Control and Feeling Less Stress with Your Commitments in a unique way. I want ANYONE to be able to access these materials because I believe they will help you become less stressed. I don’t want finances to keep you from getting this resource. At the same time, the information is valuable and the education is worth some investment. So I’ve decided to offer the class at a “Pay What You Want” basis. Passes are available from now through the end of the month. The quicker you join, the more time you’ll have to go through the materials on your own and if you wish, be part of the Facebook group.  Please join in! (or at least view the free 5-minute class.)

In addition to the above, I plan to continue the weekly blog post on Mondays, the 5 on the 15th newsletter on the 15th of each month and remain active on several social media channels, sharing tips and encouragement to bring HOPE to overwhelmed professionals. I also plan to continue to create resources/books for the foreseeable future. (I’m available for speaking, consulting, and virtual assistant opportunities as well if that is applicable to you or someone you know.)

So, thank you for celebrating HOPE’s 10th birthday with me last month. Please stay in touch and let me know how to bring HOPE to you so you can feel a little less overwhelmed at work!

10 Cool Products for Overwhelmed Professionals

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If you are like me, you love to find products and resources that can help you be a more efficient professional or that make your life richer, easier, or both. Here are ten that I recommend as I wrap up the 10th birthday of HOPE we’ve been celebrating all month. (One more chance to win the Chick-Fil-A gift card here!) (I have personal experience with each product and can recommend it based on that experience.)

All products with an * can be purchased through my store.

1. Stainless steel straws*: I use these tall straws in my insulated mug (from Quik Trip–great insulated mug that doesn’t sweat) for drinking water and sometimes tea. The straw conducts the temperature of the drink, and they come with a small brush for cleaning. You can also put them in the dishwasher.  metal straw

2. Out of Milk app. This app is great for the “third space” of my life–when I’m out and about. It has both a to-do list section and a shopping list section (as well as listing store deals.) It syncs with my husband’s phone, so when he does grocery shopping (bless him) he can hit “sync” when he gets to the store and see anything I’ve added to the list at any time prior to his stop. I also use the to-do list section when I’m doing a number of errands. I like how you can easily rearrange the order of the tasks, helping me map out an efficient loop.timer app

3. Books.* I try to finish a book a month and track it on a pad and Goodreads. So far I’ve been successful at this goal since January of 2012. Recently finished: More Than His God Card.

More than His God Card

 

4. Platform University/Platform book. I’m a charter member of this online resource founded by Michael Hyatt. Each week, new content is added specifically related to expanding your influence and all the elements that go into that, including your “why” and “how.” Plus it has helped me connect with other like-minded professionals. Enrollment is available only once or twice a year, so I recommend the book if you can’t enroll.


Platform UPlatform Book

5. Timer apps. I use a few. Multi-timer Alarm Clock Xtreme free and Thyme. These apps are great for helping me keep track on time spent for my clients, or if I want to try to stay focused on one type of activity for a period of time. Timers are your friend!

timers too

 

6. Essential Oil diffuser.* I use this water-based diffuser mainly at night, to contribute toward a pleasant night’s sleep (something all overwhelmed professionals need.). I like the nightlight effect and that you can see steam coming from it. diffuser

7. Blue Apron. We’ve been using Blue Apron food delivery for a few weeks. I have pros and cons on this one, but share it because I think it can be a big help to busy professionals. You do have to allow time to prepare the food, so if you enjoy cooking as a relaxing hobby, but don’t really like meal planning and shopping, this type of service might be for you. It is helping me grow to enjoy the prep/cooking process more, and skip the shopping/planning part which I enjoy less. It is introducing us to a number of interesting dishes we would probably never try otherwise. Overall we feel it is about 75% successful for our current lifestyle as empty-nesters. We had the opportunity to try one week free when a friend had free weeks to give away. (If you are interested in a free week, contact me.)

blue apron

 

8. Dry erase board. I’m a big fan of keeping a dry erase board at my desk so I can jot quick reminders or do some quick figuring and then erase it. I prefer this over using sticky notes that can tend to proliferate on desks and monitors.

dry erase board

9. Samsung Galaxy. My smartphone is a mini computer with me all the time. I like the ability to check email, take photos, take notes, use timers, have an up-to-date calendar, and more.

Galaxy

10. My books and resources. I believe in the information I offer you and ask that you consider buying one of my books. Next enrollment for the Conquer Your Calendar online class is coming up soon too. Stay tuned.

Beth books

 

I hope you’ll visit my store to purchase some of these products. And, if you shop at Amazon anyway, would you like through my site first? At no extra cost to you, I receive a small portion of your purchases.

 

 Your turn…what is a favorite product to help your overcome overwhelm?

10 Tips to Celebrate 10 Years

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What are your top tips for overwhelmed professionals?

Before I give you mine, I’m happy to share that the first entry in my business checkbook is 4/22/2005 and we’ve been celebrating the 10th Birthday of HOPE all month. (Did you enter the drawing for the Chick-Fil-A gift cards yet?)

Thought it’d be fun to list 10 tips to help overwhelmed professionals, as we continue to celebrate on the theme of 10. So in no particular order:

1. Maintain one calendar but a few task lists. Since you can (conceivably) only be in one place at a time, keeping one calendar is helpful. However, keeping a separate task list for home, work, and errands can keep your mind less cluttered.

2. Invest in your professional development a little each week. You can do this by reading articles, blog posts, taking a class (such as what I offer in virtual training classrooms), etc. You don’t have to do hours worth of study a week…just learn something new.

3. Take time for yourself each workday. Even if only for 15 minutes, get away from your work for a bit each day. Take a walk. Get outside for a few minutes. Enjoy a casual chat at the coffee pot.

4. Avoid overuse of sticky notes. These things can proliferate all over your desk and monitor and can either start to blend in with your environment or constantly remind you of something undone.

5. Use a small dry erase board to jot notes that are temporary. This centralizes your doodles and quick figuring and is easily erased, keeping your desk neater.

6. Arrive a few minutes early. It is so much nicer to be able to catch your breath, take your coat off, boot up your computer, etc. first before having to launch into answering questions or the phone.

7. Develop a helpful “closing shop” routine. About ten minutes before you leave, begin to shut down your workspace. Leave it neat, and consider what you have going on the next day. Take a look at your calendar, move undone tasks to the next day or so, and even wipe off the desk surface.

8. Have healthy routines at home. A solid morning and evening routine can set you up for better days, whether going to work or for spending on your own time. Examples: setting outfits out the night before, packing lunches, having a morning quiet time.

9. Try to meet new people. Both online and real life opportunities about to expand your network. Often, people who are at least acquainted with a number of folks have someone to call on when they need someone with a particular expertise. Some jobs even come about because “someone knows someone.” Be kind, be sincere.

10. Be responsive. A major problem in business today is lack of response. It’s as if emails and voice mails go into black holes. It doesn’t build credibility and trust–something desperately needed if you want to build a loyal client base. If you are too busy to respond, it’s time to consider an assistant–in person or virtually.

Join the conversation: What would you add to this list?

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Pointers for Professionals: 10+ Experts Weigh in on Productivity Apps

Iphone notifications

Welcome to the first “Pointers for Professionals.” Because this is part of HOPE’s 10th Birthday Celebration, I was hoping for 10 contributions and I received 11!  Thanks everyone and also the Frontline Festival series over at Let’s Grow Leaders, upon which this post series is modeled.

Read on, click on links, support our contributors, and see below what our next topic will be.

Jeff Baker (@jeffbbaker) of Shoes Optional currently uses any.do combined with Nimble CRM. Both allow for great integration with Social Media and a quick way to handle upcoming tasks. One of the ways he organizes his tasks and his weekly schedule is using a weekly formula.  Connect with Jeff.

Meredith Jones (@thismeredithj) of MeredithJ.com shares why she keeps coming back to Remember the Milk as her favorite productivity app – easy upkeep and great integration!  Connect with Meredith.

Matt McWilliams (@mattmcwilliams2) of MattMcWilliams.com throws out a totally contrarian view here – 6 Benefits of Getting RID of your smartphone. He got rid of his smartphone more than six years ago and thinks it might be a good idea for you too. Connect with Matt.

The one app Kevin Monroe  (@kevin_monroe) of Cairnway Center for Leadership Excellence relies on daily to boost productivity is Evernote. With it, all vital info is always accessible on any device. Connect with Kevin.

Being a curator of content & a learning junkie, Lanette Pottle (@positivitylady) of Positivity Lady Enterprises says: “Evernote is my favorite productivity tool. It saves me time by keeping me organized.” Connect with Lanette.

Holly Payne  (@hollyreneepayne) of HollyReneePayne.com is a Dropbox app fan, because it removes all geographic distance barriers from team collaboration and project sharing. Connect with Holly.

Amy Porter (@amylynn_porter) of Amy Gets Things Done  says her favorite app to keep productive is the 7-Minute Workout. It helps shake off the last project and focus on the next. Connect with Amy.

Lori Schofer  (@LoriSchofer) of Level UP Now Coaching has found an app that has increased her productivity – Nozbe. She’s able to keep track of multiple tasks with efficiency. Connect with Lori.

Suyenti Sunarto (@YentiSunarto) of Day 2 Day Concierge Service tells us her favorite productivity app is Google Voice. It helps to keep track of personal & business phone calls/texts, and voicemail. Connect with Suyenti.

Paul Tedder (@paulstedder) of AT Your Design shares: I use two apps to help me manage articles. Feedly for curating articles and Pocket for managing them. Together they make a great team. Connect with Paul.

Karina Whisnant (@livehispurpose) of Life in Abundance  shares that one of her favorite apps is Big Oven. It is a great software that holds both her own recipes as well as recipes they have already stored in the software. It is easy to add a recipe from either paper or online, and having the app on her phone makes it quite accessible when she is getting ready to cook her meal. It saves time in hunting for that “favorite” recipe. Connect with Karina.

Thanks again to our contributors.

Next topic: Tips for managing your calendar

Deadline: May 8

Contribute at this link. New contributors welcome!