Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why the USPS doesn't always suck ... and a lesson for those that use flat rate envelopes

I hear a lot of complaints about the USPS, and I do know that some folks really do have problems ... however, I have to give props to the USPS ... because I find it rather amazing that this package ... and its contents made it to me.

You see ... I ordered this bottle of glue, and the seller used one of those flat rate mailers that is made of really, really thin chip board. I hate those by the way. Sellers really need to use the new bubble flat rate mailers that are made for more bulky items, or just pay for mailers that hold up.

I have received so many packages in these flat rate mailers that came ripped open ... I just knew that at some point one of them would be ripped open. Today was that day.

I am just glad that the contents was not lost or damaged!

Kudos to the USPS for putting my package back together and getting it to me!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rainy Day Magnets - Giveaway!

This Giveaway is now closed! Thanks to everyone for participating!

Whew! I was going to post this on Monday, but given that I could find NO batteries in the house to take pictures with I was a little bit doomed!

However, since we have gotten another 1.25 inches of rain in the last 24 hours, I think the rainy day magnets are still appropriate!

So, here is a picture of the cute little rainy day magnets I did! One rainy clip magnet, for you to keep up with that list of rainy day stuff you need, and 3 button magnets one with rain drops and two with puffy white clouds on an orange sky ... because orange and light blue is just such a fabulous combination!!

You get the 4 magnets and they will arrive in a clear top magnet tin ... so you can store other goodies too!

I've made two sets of these, so the other set is available only in my Etsy shop!

You can first enter by being a blog follower and leaving a comment on this post!

You can get extra entries by tweeting this post and becoming a facebook fan. Only one tweet entry per day allowed. You must leave a separate comment for each entry or they will not count, and you must leave the link to your tweet to enter for tweets!

This is open to everyone worldwide, and the winner will be drawn on Wednesday, October 5th 2011 by putting the number of comments into a random integer generator. Contest closes at 7am eastern daylight time on Wednesday, October 5th 2011.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rainy Days are good for Crafting!

The last few days here have been really rainy! Our rain guage has collected 3+ inches not including the downpour we are getting right now. I welcome the rain today, not only because we are in a drought and our grass is crunchy, but also because I find rainy days very soothing to craft and get inspired.

I know that the rain is often associated with depression, but the smell, sound hitting the tin roofs, and watching the birds frolic in puddles brings me a calm that I don't get on bright sunny days.

So, today I am going to make some rainy magnets from a sweet digital paper that I purchased not too long ago, and here is an awesome handmade stamp from creatiate that might help you to mark your next rainy day!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Time Management - Expectations

Now, you may think this is an odd topic for a time management post, but keep reading and you may understand.

I used to go to a restaurant once a week for really good Chinese food. I would always take my son, because he loved the food and trying to eat with chopsticks. Now, it was a little pricey, but the helpings were large so I was always sure to have enough left over for lunch the next day. One week we went there for dinner, and the helpings were really small. I commented to the person serving me that normally they gave us a much bigger scoop. The server commented back that they had been making a mistake before, and these were the correct proportions. I was very disappointed, and after that experience my son and I found a recipe, bought some chopsticks, and started eating our weekly Chinese dinner at home instead of at the restaurant. We have gone back a couple times in the last year, but we are no longer regular weekly customers and we have also turned the rest of the family onto our yummy homemade Chinese dinner.

My point here is that this restaurant created an expectation for me, and then changed. My opinion isn't a bad one of the restaurant, but because of their drastic change in portion sizes I no longer visit the store as a weekly customer.

From a business and time management perspective, I am here to tell you that YOU create expectations for your customers. You create these expectations in your descriptions, prices, policies, words and actions. You have the ultimate control over how your customers perceive your customer service and product. You need to set your business up with systems that are manageable for the long term and account for busy times, slow times, growth, and rising supply costs. You don't want your regular customers to visit your shop not knowing what to expect this time. You want your regular customers to know exactly what they can expect based on their experiences with you, and you want to set up systems that you can maintain.

From a time management perspective this means setting up times to respond to customers - will you respond to them in 2 hours, 6 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours? Set a schedule that you can conform to on your busy times, however perhaps not your extremely busy times. You may state that you will respond to people in 24-48 hours and the 24 hour mark is what you do in normal and busy times, but the 48 hours is what you do when you are extremely busy. Put these times in your policies, and also tell people when you will respond back to the with answers to questions and quotes that are not immediately available. Then - stick to it! If you are constantly late, then consider extending the time that you give yourself. However, you also don't want to be consistently very early either. You don't want your customers used to you responding to them in breakneck speed and then all of a sudden they don't hear from you for 2 days without some sort of announcement that you are out of town.

Set up appropriate times to complete orders and shipping ready-made orders. When you do this give yourself a buffer to account for bad weather, a sick day now and then, and also things that come up in life. You don't want to be cutting it so close to deadlines that you are constantly having to tell your customer that you missed a deadline that you ultimately set for yourself. You also don't want to be always sending orders days ahead of schedule and it to feel like you are late when an order is sent out on time.

Scheduling realistic times and deadlines for yourself can help you plan custom orders into your regular order routine, save time by consolidating like tasks, and to give you and your customers a solid system to expect for the long term. So, be nice to yourself, give yourself the time that you need to complete your orders and communications without being in a time crunch constantly.

Next week I will be writing about working in batches, small runs, and one at a time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm a paper girl ... I can't help it!

 I promised to come back today ... and really I tried to give Cozi another chance ... It is really a fantastic program that you can update online, on your smartphone, ipad, laptop, etc, but at heart I am a paper girl.  As much as I wish I could just give my life over to technology there is something about putting pen to paper that is so satisfying for my soul.

So, I actually MADE something for ME today - only me - you cannot buy it from me =)

It is a nice big weekly planner (8x10) with a pocket and a whole page for one week ... and get this ... a WHOLE page for notes and lists for that week!  I even gave Saturday and Sunday as much space as the other days cause we always have busy weekends!  Plus I put 40 more pages in the back for lists and notes.  The notes and lists pages are not all sectioned off, so I can put anything I want there without feeling like I am breaking the "planner rules".

Here are some pictures for you!!

This was not the easiest thing to make and I have not decided if I will put them in my shop yet.

Leave me a note and tell me what you think!

Clean Up the Crap Wednesdays - Juggling

This is a picture of my kids' juggling balls.  I unfortunately have failed to learn how to juggle, but my husband can and he is always trying to teach the boys to juggle.

I however, have the privilege of juggling all of these other things in my life ... learning how to do that is equally as difficult and frustrating as trying to learn to juggle those balls!

So, I have decided to bring back "Clean up the Crap Wednesdays", and today I am tackling my calendar.  I would show you a picture of it ... but currently it is in my head ... and you really don't want to see that!

I am going to give the Cozi calendar another shot ... let's see what happens!  I will let you know either the end of today or tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Time Management - Business is taking over my life!

I heard from many of you that you really need help shutting your work off and spending time with friends, family, or just doing personal things. I am here to tell you that it is not easy. The good news is that it means that you really love what you do, or that you are super busy with a booming business. Now, if you are super busy with a booming business then it is time for you to think about hiring a person or a service to do some things to free up some of your time. This might mean getting a housekeeper, bookkeeper/accountant, someone to help with shipping, or even hiring a company to take over some of your online presence and social networking. However, if financially you just can't bring yourself to hire someone or your busy but your sales aren't busy, then you need to get real about what you are doing and how much time you are spending on it.

It could be that you are spending a lot of time avoiding the things that you should be doing, and indulging in the freedom that you are giving yourself. So, if you are the boss, would you hire yourself? Are you being a good employee? If not, then you really are going to have to step things up and take your business seriously. Playtime is over, and it is time to get to work ... so that you can have playtime later!!

It could also be that you are spending a lot of time doing a lot of things that really don't have a big or meaningful impact on your business. Lots of social networking activities and sites are a great way to meet up with people and find a lot of information, but you need to make sure these things are bringing value to your business for the time that you spend doing them. If you think this is the case, then try to evaluate them using the following matrix.

You really want to avoid the things that fall in the lots of time/little impact. These are things that you spend a lot of time doing, but you really don't have any measurable results from doing them. You also want to be careful with the things that are little time/little impact - these things can add up to be a big time suck. All of those 5 minute activities add up to hours at the end of a week, and you can lose valuable time without knowing it. Your focus should be on the things that have a big impact on your business, and you want to make sure that the things that fall into the little time/big impact are incorporated into your daily routine. The items that fall into your lots of time/big impact can be increased and reduced to control your workflow - so you would do them more when you aren't very busy, and do them less when you are very busy.

I wish that I could tell you what these things are or will be for you, but unfortunately these are all different for each person and each business. This is when it comes down to who and what you know. Some sellers spend an enormous amount of time making treasuries on Etsy, and that translates into big sales and big exposure, others spend enormous amounts of time making treasuries but the results are only lots of exposure but not so many sales. There are also sellers that have the same experiences with twitter, facebook, blogging, etc. So, you really need to be honest with yourself and your business about what things you are doing that are worth your time doing them.

In my own business the little time/big impact items are purchasing ads on blogs. I spend time each month looking for blogs to advertise on, and when I purchase ads I don't always get sales, but through experimentation I have been able to find blogs that work for me and my business. So, basically this activity has moved around in my matrix so that now it is in the best category. The activity that I find to be the lots of time/big impact is creating and listing new things. This is the one activity that I if I give up my business slows down and if I spend more time on it my business picks up.

All other activities fall into the low impact areas on the matrix - All facebooking, tweeting, blogging, etc have fallen into these areas. Now, I have not stopped doing these things completely as I think they are important for my business presence, but I do not put them at the top of the list of things I need to do in a day. These are fillers that I do when I have a few extra minutes during the day, when I have coffee in the morning, or when it is rainy outside and I don't have other things going on.

I have also recently found a good way of incorporating these social internet sites into the other business and social activities that I enjoy doing. I have recently discovered some business minded groups on twitter that have a bi-weekly meeting and I try to attend that meeting. This activity keeps me on track with my business, I meet great folks on twitter when I am there, and I am also being active on twitter for social networking time. All of that in 1 hour twice a month! Groups like this are also popping up on facebook and other social networking sites. Consider talking to groups you are already involved in and see if you can take some of your chatting to a social internet site so that you can essentially accomplish two things at one time - a nice chat with friends as well as maintaining that social network presence.

Once you have done the matrix exercise and really identified the things that are big impact items and little impact items, try to re-focus your workday. Make sure you are doing those big impact items, and don't put so much importance on the little impact items. Leave work at an appropriate time and remember to do some of those big impact items in your personal life! Also remember, that just because you love your business doesn't mean that the people you love, love your business. Making time for yourself, friends and family does have a positive impact on your business, and prevents that dreaded thing called BURN OUT.

Next week I will be talking about expectations from a time management perspective.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday - Wrap it up for the Weekend!

Another Friday has rolled around which means the weekend will soon be upon us. I've been focusing myself a lot more lately on having a work schedule and getting more organized.

For Fridays, that means wrapping up projects from the week and tidying up the house for the weekend. Since I won't be able to finish all of the projects I have started this week (and previous weeks) in one day, I think it is important to store all of the materials that I have gathered for those projects in one location so they are ready to pick up and finish next week.

Depending on the size of the projects you might be able to use folders, baggies, or plastic containers. Just make sure that you can store things and not squish materials that don't need to be squished.

I have other projects started that don't really need their own container, so they will just be stored and not containerized. I also have a dedicated cabinet for unfinished projects. The cabinet gives me a definitive space for unfinished projects and requires me to fit all of the unfinished projects in one space. Therefore, I can't start a new project until I have space to store it.

If I find that I have too many to fit, and I really want to start something new, then it is time to re-evaluate some of the unfinished projects. I will ask myself why I haven't finished these? What is holding me back? Is it likely that I will finish the projects soon? Do I have all of the supplies to finish the projects?

Often times there are projects that I started, that just didn't work out the way I hoped. For these I really must decide if I am going to finish them, or if they are just not going to happen. Often these unfinished projects are taking up valuable real estate in my creative brain, so getting rid of the ones that aren't going to be finished frees up space for me to come up with new ideas.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Time Management Series - The LIST

So, I have tried to write this article on time management so many times by now that my deadline for getting it done has sufficiently passed! You may be able to relate to this - that you are over scheduled, and so much so, that even the things and maybe especially the things that you like to do get shuffled to the bottom of the list ... doomed to never be finished!

The truth is that time management is easy for some, and downright impossible for others! Unfortunately, no one sells extra hours, a magic pill to make you super organized, or an easy button to get all of your things done. Well ... maybe a magic pill but not without horrible side effects or possible jail time! The only thing you can do is either do it yourself or pay (or bribe) someone else into doing it, and unfortunately money gets in the way of hired help for most of us.

I don't have some earth shattering system to introduce you to or some new way of completing all of those mundane things that you hate. However, I have come up with a way of doing things that actually motivates me and helps to keep me on track.

So, What is this system? A LIST

Now the way that I keep and do my list is a little different, but at the end of the day I get things accomplished and I feel good about what I have done, and any good motivator will tell you that this feeling of accomplishment really is the most important thing.

So, go make a list of everything you want to accomplish, but also include things that you want to do and get enjoyment from doing ... even things that you would otherwise consider indulgent! Things like watching your favorite TV show or spending time with family or friends are just as important as scrubbing toilets and mopping floors. These are the things that will energize you, calm your soul, and keep you going to get the less appealing things completed.

Now some people will tell you to prioritize and do the most important things first, but I am telling you to just do something on the list! You may not feel like doing the most important thing first thing in the morning. Having your coffee and reading a book or magazine might be more motivating to you first thing. Just do one thing on your list and get it checked off! Just the act of checking something off on your list will most likely help you to continue doing something else on the list.

Now go ... make that list!! Start checking things off!!

Next Tuesday I'll be talking about workaholics and making time for fun stuff!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Is Business Taking over your life?

I am blogging today for the Aspiring Artisan's Guild! The time management topic for today is Business Is Taking Over My Life!

Go Check it out!