10 Strategies for Solopreneurs and Entrepreneurs to Ease Overwhelm

Solopreneur

Solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and founders of early stage startups and businesses are frequently overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to get done. Being overwhelmed is a state of mind that is not always firmly planted in reality. It’s a direct result of the choices and actions that we take. There are several strategies for managing choices and actions that can ease these feelings of overwhelm.

If you’re one of the many who are overwhelmed, keep reading to learn about strategies to help you alleviate overwhelm, your workload, worry and stress.

1. Develop a Realistic Action Plan

Many solopreneurs and entrepreneurs are “idea people” and right-brain thinkers. They have an endless supply of innovative ideas for product, customer acquisition, and brand awareness; but they forget one of the most important strategies, which is to get these ideas into a system. They successfully build a business plan and a prototype – and perhaps they’ve sought and obtained investment from angel investors, but many fall short on implementation because they fail to develop a comprehensive action plan. They have too many ideas in their brains, but not in a well-structured plan, which leads to overwhelm over the number of things they need to do to get things done.

When you start your business, simplicity is key. It’s important to make a plan of action, but focus on the execution. Understand your long-term goals, and build an action plan for the first 30, 60 and 90 days based on those goals. Your plan should include the tasks, costs and schedules required to achieve the objectives of the business plan. Our advice is to use a mobile solution such as LifeTopix to record your goals, projects and tasks – and to store supporting information about those projects and tasks.

2. Trust Your Instincts to Make Decisions

Theodore Roosevelt once said,

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Solopreneurs and entrepreneurs make a variety of decisions every day and this can be overwhelming. Some take longer than others to make decisions – listing the pros and cons of their options; examining the data; and weighing their options. Decision-making takes time and energy, and when you’re starting a new business, you don’t have historical data to do a complete cost/benefit analysis.

Let go of overwhelm by trusting yourself. Your perseverance, intelligence and ingenuity got you started – now trust it to help you make the best decisions for your company. Take a test and learn approach. Trust your gut and instincts to help you make decisions, and stick with them until the data tells you otherwise.

3. Overcome Fear of Failure

Many solopreneurs and entrepreneurs suffer from fear of failure. It’s a natural feeling and no matter who you are, you’ve felt it in your life. Often times, fear of failure can cause anxiety and hold back progress. In fact, according to the article Fear of Failure by Timothy A. Pychyl, studies show that higher fear of failure leads to procrastination. As a result of your fears, procrastination leads to overwhelm because as you let things go, too many items pile up on your plate.

There are several strategies to overcome fear of failure, but first and foremost, you must have confidence that you’re doing the right things, have the right skills to do them, and know what it takes to achieve your goals.

4. Supercharge Health, Energy and Focus

Entrepreneurship requires strong energy and focus. Giving into distractions and shiny objects destroys focus and promotes overwhelm. Just like most things in life, developing good life habits that stimulate your energy level supports focus.

There are several ways to improve focus; however, some simple changes are to consume brain foods, exercise and learn to meditate.

The best brain foods contain omega-3 fats, and flavonoids and nonflavonoids (anti-oxidant compounds). Berries, salmon, avocados, walnuts, olive oil, spinach, dark chocolate and garlic are good choices. Limit partially hydrogenated oils, refined sugar, fructose, carbohydrates, gluten and processed foods.

Exercise is proven to improve focus, energy and attitude. The proper amount of exercise is debatable; however, guidelines from health organizations recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

These days, even western doctors recommend meditation to reduce stress, to improve focus and to promote better sleep habits. You can learn more about the benefits of meditation from the Mayo Clinic.

5. Get Support from Others

Much of success develops from having the support of your family, friends and others. If you don’t have this support, overwhelm can consume you. Before you start your business, ensure you build clear expectations with your partner, spouse, family members or others. Your time is precious and you will be pulled in many different directions.

Many of the day-to-day things that you accomplish in your personal life fall by the wayside when your business becomes your priority. Consider outsourcing activities such as house cleaning, lawn mowing and personal errands. Make meals easy by using pre-portioned, ready to cook meal delivery services such as Blue Apron or Plated.

6. Seek Advice from Successful Entrepreneurs

Support can also come from fellow solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. Knowing that others are going through the same journey is both encouraging and invigorating – and it can reduce your feelings of overwhelm.

You can find and get to know other entrepreneurs through Meetups, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, and other networking groups. Attend meetings, find a mentor and pick the brains of others to find effective strategies for your endeavor.

7. Keep Tools Simple

Many solopreneurs tend to jump in immediately with heavyweight cloud-based tech tools to run their businesses. Setting up this infrastructure can lead to overwhelm, especially when you’re flying solo.

It’s typically not necessary to invest in heavyweight marketing, customer support, human resources, operations and sales/CRM systems. Focus first on customer acquisition, then implement these tools as your business grows. You’ll know when it’s the right time.

8. Let Go of Perfectionism

Paul Arden once said,

Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you’ve got, and fix it along the way.

When you’re already spread thin, having a tendency to set high standards can lead to overwhelm and put a stop to progress. Making mistakes and minor imperfections will happen. Don’t agonize over details and become overly cautious. Understand, as a solopreneur or entrepreneur that “perfect is the enemy of good.” Your desire for perfection can result in being your biggest impediment.

9. See the Forest For the Trees

At times, entrepreneurs can get too deep in the details, that they don’t see the big picture. Being hyper-focused on the details can overwhelm you and impede progress. For example, checking the language of an email campaign for the umpteenth time to decide which adjective works best is a waste of time. In the scope of things, it’s important to let go of these types of meaningless details and, instead, move quickly.

10. Consider Finding a Co-founder

If you’ve clearly defined your plan and it appears that realistically, there is simply too much work, you might consider finding a cofounder. As a solopreneur, this might be one of the biggest decisions that you make in your business. A co-founder is much like your life partner – they’ll be with you for the long haul so ensure their personality, energy, passion, skills and expertise complement those that you have.

Your Turn

As a solopreneur or entrepreneur, how do you avoid overwhelm and achieve success? Please share your stories and thoughts in the comments below.

Successful Students Know These 8 Things About the LifeTopix App

Student Using LifeTopix

With the new school year quickly approaching, students and teachers are gearing up with the best tools and apps to manage and organize their busy education schedules. Lucky for them, LifeTopix is available to manage school and life in one place. This amazing app unifies contacts, calendars, projects, documents and other related information in one app, which allows students to focus on what matters – their education.

LifeTopix is based on 12 topics, which include: Tasks + Projects, Shopping + Gifts, Events + Appointments, Travel + Places, People + Services, Health + Goals, Finances, Home + Assets, Education, Notes + Files, Lists, Media and Bookmarks + Lockers.

How Do Successful Students Use LifeTopix?

Keep reading to learn how successful and organized students use LifeTopix to get ahead.

1. Organize Education Checklists

When starting a new school year, there’s usually a ton of to-dos – forms, shopping, making calls and arranging finances are just to name a few.

With LifeTopix’s built-in checklists (shown below), keeping track of these details is stress-free. And what’s great about LifeTopix’s checklists is students can quickly email them to parents to let them know their status on getting things done.

LifeTopix Back-to-School Checklist

LifeTopix Back-to-School Checklist

2. Manage Class Schedules

Keeping track of classes is always a hassle, especially when you’re a new freshman at a university or high school. Getting a handle on schedules is imperative for success. Luckily, with LifeTopix’s ability to create custom schedules, as shown below, it’s easy to create class schedules. For example, repeating classes that start on different days of the week, such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday can easily be recorded — which is not possible in many calendar apps.

LifeTopix Custom Scheduler

LifeTopix Custom Scheduler

LifeTopix Student Schedule

LifeTopix Student Schedule

3. Plan Back-to-School Shopping

Students and parents are turning to smartphone apps to help them manage their back-to-school shopping. Whether they’re shopping online or at the physical store, apps can help students, teachers and parents make a list of things you need to buy.

With LifeTopix, students can create lists by either creating a shopping list in the Shopping topic, as shown below, or they can create a LifeTopix checklist. With a LifeTopix shopping list, it’s easy to add prices and deadlines to assist with budgeting.

LifeTopix Back-to-School Shopping List

LifeTopix Back-to-School Shopping List

4. Organize Class Subjects

LifeTopix includes built-in features for students or anyone else who is furthering their education. One of these useful features is “Subjects” in the Education topic of LifeTopix.

With LifeTopix’s Subjects, students can keep track of Assignments and attach supporting information, such as tasks, appointments, reminders, notes, checklists, files, bookmarks, expenses, services, audio, photos, videos and drawings. Essentially, students can add bookmarks to Spanish to English translation sites and their class’s webpage; add recorded audio of class lectures (if allowed); add class notes; include any class expenses; etc. All of this is neatly organized into one place, as shown below.

Organizing Class Subjects in LifeTopix

Organizing Class Subjects in LifeTopix

5. Take Class Notes

LifeTopix includes built-in note taking and students can sync class notes with Evernote. However students choose to keep track of notes, it’s simple with LifeTopix. Moreover, students can easily organize and locate notes by using categories, notebooks, context tags, and date tags in LifeTopix. Additionally, they can hand write, record audio and take video within LifeTopix notes, which makes the note-taking process even easier.

The screenshot below shows an example of a LifeTopix note before and after it’s synced with Evernote.

LifeTopix Class Notes

LifeTopix Class Notes

Evernote Note Synced with LifeTopix

Evernote Note Synced with LifeTopix

6. Stay On Top of Grades with Goals

Successful students and business people alike know that setting goals gives them motivation. If you want to make the most of your life, setting goals is essential for achieving your dreams.

LifeTopix includes a topic for focusing on health and goals, which is perfect for students. Everyone understands it’s important to make good grades. The goal recorded in the LifeTopix app below is set up to focus on getting an A in Spanish. With this goal, students can log their grades to get an idea of where they are daily, weekly, monthly or for the entire semester. And what’s great is they can view the grades in a graphical format (shown below). This is a great motivator to keep students on track in their studies.

Education Goal Recorded in LifeTopix

Education Goal Recorded in LifeTopix

Logging of Goal Metrics in LifeTopix

Logging of Goal Metrics in LifeTopix

7. See School Agendas at a Glance

Every type of item that’s added in LifeTopix is picked up by the daily agenda and calendar views; however, students can filter these items as they wish as shown below. Keep in mind that the LifeTopix calendar works with the calendars that the iOS device supports, so students can choose which of these items sync back and forth from their favorite calendars (Google, Yahoo, etc.). The flexibility is fantastic.

LifeTopix Education Agenda

LifeTopix Education Agenda

LifeTopix Calendar Filter

LifeTopix Calendar Filter

8. Organize Education Items By Context Tags

Everyone has lots of things to do in work, school and life – and sometimes it’s helpful to see the commitments that are associated with each part of life.

This is one of the reasons that LifeTopix includes context tags. For example, most of the items mentioned in this article were tagged with the context tag @school. This way, students can view anything related to this tag in one single list, as shown below. They might also use tags such as @work, @social, etc. to organize or divide those items into one view.

Organize with LifeTopix Context Tags

Organize with LifeTopix Context Tags

Bear in mind that these are just of the few of the many ways that students use LifeTopix to help them achieve success in school. Above and beyond the features listed here, other features include managing finances, logging fitness items, keeping track of social events, managing documents, tracking passwords, recording travel and more.

Are you ready to get organized? Find LifeTopix at the Apple App Store by clicking the link below.

app-store-download

GTD Basics – Methods for Reflecting and Weekly Reviews in LifeTopix

LifeTopix is an all-in-one productivity app for iPad and iPhone. We have many customers who follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method and use LifeTopix to stay organized and productive. Many of these customers ask about the most efficient ways to use LifeTopix for GTD® and our best practices.

GTD, LifeTopix, Reflecting and Weekly Reviews

David Allen rewrote the “Getting Things Done” book for 2015 and beyond, which was originally published in 2001. In addition, LifeTopix has evolved since we first published the popular post, “Best Practices for Getting Things Done – Weekly Review” in 2013. We strive to keep our customers up-to-date and hope you enjoy the new information we’re providing for you today.

We previously published three posts described below. We encourage you to read those posts before diving into this one:

Master Reflecting and Weekly Reviews

In Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done,” he dedicates a chapter to “Reflecting”. In this chapter, he stresses that you must review your system on a regular basis to ensure it is current and functional. He describes what to look at and when, and he communicates the power of the “Weekly Review.” The video below explains, in detail, how you would use LifeTopix to perform the actions he describes in this chapter of “Getting Things Done.”

Watch the Video

More to Come

In the next few weeks, we’ll be posting more videos and tips to assist you with utilizing LifeTopix for GTD. Please subscribe to the Life Blog to stay up-to-date.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

8 Tips and Resources to Help Small Businesses Thrive

Small-Business-Thrive

Starting and owning a small business can be demanding. At LightArrow, we have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that entrepreneurs, founders and startups face. Today, we’re sharing some of the top 8 problems that small businesses face and tips for overcoming these challenges.

1. Grow On a Shoestring Budget

No matter what type of business you’re in, marketing is essential to grow your business. Plus, having a website and a social media presence is crucial for small business success. A website is the core of your marketing efforts and social media builds credibility, generates leads and improves your website’s rankings.

Many startups and small businesses are on a shoestring budget, but this shouldn’t stop them from effectively marketing their products and services through a website. Building a website without a web developer on staff may seem daunting to non-technical entrepreneurs, but it can be easier than you think.

To get started with a website, research content management systems such as WordPress to find one that’s appropriate for your skill level. Take advantage of resources such as Lynda.com to learn how to properly set up a website. Research effective information architecture techniques to ensure you’re delivering material in a way that’s easy to consume.

Once your website is built, add new content to it regularly through a blog or forum that’s suitable for your audience. Drive traffic to your website through Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Quora and LinkedIn.

Investing time and energy into social media is crucial, but many new business owners believe that it isn’t necessary for success. However, social media is vital for building brand and awareness. And in fact, according to Hubspot, 71% of people are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.

2. Improve Your Working Capital

In order for a business to thrive, it needs working capital and proper money management is among one of the top qualities of successful businesses. It’s important to calculate your working capital needs by finding the difference between current assets and liabilities.

In some cases, you might find your sales are not what you expected and working capital might be an issue in order to keep your business running. Or, your business is able to use cash on hand to fund operations, but it needs more cash to invest in advertising, product development, software, inventory or other resources in order to grow. If working capital is an issue, consider using an online provider of business loans, such as Kabbage to grow your business. They offer loans ranging from $2,000 to $100,000 for small businesses.

3. Build Good Customer Relationships

80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. -Gartner

Never underestimate the power of your satisfied customers. Happy customers are your best salespeople. And, just like in any type of relationship, communication is the key to success. Timely follow-ups after purchases to check customer satisfaction, to offer free content for customer empowerment and to provide rewards through programs can increase customer satisfaction.

However, managing these types of follow-ups can be difficult so many small businesses use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. If you’re a freelancer, real estate agent, single entrepreneur, or if you run a microbusiness, you can utilize LifeTopix to manage your follow-ups with customers. You can learn more at: Successful CRM Recipes for the Small Business Owner.

If you require an automated and cost-effective way to communicate with existing customers, you can utilize an email marketing platform suitable for small businesses, such as MailChimp, Aweber or Constant Contact.

With email marketing software, you can create personalized welcome programs for new customers and nurture programs for potential customers. If you use Ecommerce, you can automate customer retention programs by integrating your email marketing with your Ecommerce platform.

4. Use Time Management Techniques

When you become an entrepreneur or run a small business, you say goodbye to the 40-hour work week. You’re on call 24×7 and good time management is vital for success and it also prevents burnout. Goal setting, planning, prioritization, delegation and focus are time management tactics that are vital for a successful small business.

When setting goals, they should be S.M.A.R.T. For example, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Once you’ve decided on your goals, record them and put an action plan into place.

An action plan or follow-through strategy should include projects, tasks and the necessary resources. Define the work that’s required to reach your goals. Break the work down into tasks and assign those tasks to the resources who are available.

Effective entrepreneurs and small business owners have mastered delegation. They understand that some projects and tasks don’t require their supervision. They’ve learned that they can delegate these tasks to others in order to focus on strategic goals, relationship building and priorities.

Finally, focus is very important for entrepreneurs. Customer requests, advice from investors and advisors, employee demands and changing markets are just a few of the distractions that leaders balance every day. It’s important to stay on a clearly defined path and to avoid running off of course. Take advice from lean startups and get laser-focused your priorities and eliminate what’s not essential.

5. Hire the Right People

Hiring the right people for your small business or startup can be challenging. It takes a unique personality and set of skills to thrive in a lean, small business environment.

Consider that the people you hire will be working close together so they need to fit your company culture like a glove. They need to be willing to push up their sleeves and do the work themselves. It’s best to hire people who know how to do the job, not just how to manage the right people. Generally, they should have a wide variety of skills, rather than to be focused on a specific, niche area.

Startup and small business hires need to know what to do and when to do it without being asked. Hire senior employees and team them up with junior personnel.

Most recruiting firms are cost prohibitive for small businesses. Stay lean by taking advantage of your own informal and formal networks, LinkedIn and local job boards to find employees. Attract new employees by offering incentives that larger companies cannot, such as flexible work schedules, work from home days and stock options.

6. Improve Your Online Reputation

Online ratings can make or break a business. How often do you check Yelp before you visit a restaurant, salon, yoga studio or other business? Do you check the rating of an app or other product before you download or purchase it? Consumers regularly use online reviews to check the quality of a business or product before purchasing it.

The best way to avoid negative ratings and reviews is to have open communication with customers and solve their problems before they write negative comments. You should always provide a way for them to easily get in touch with you and subsequently deliver exemplary customer service.

No matter how wonderful your product or service might be, there will always be someone who won’t like it. It’s just the nature of doing business. When a negative review surfaces, it’s important to do everything possible to win that customer over.

Monitoring and responding to reviews is essential to keep ratings up. For example, I left a 4 star review on Yelp for an establishment that provides food and mentioned that the quality of the food had decreased. The manager contacted me directly and asked me specifically about the issue, provided coupons for free food and his note was friendly and kind. After this, I raised my review to 5 stars.

Check review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Reviews, and Yahoo Local reviews regularly. Respond to every review for sites that allow it, including both negative and positive reviews. In addition, you can set up Google Alerts to notify you of any online activity about your business.

7. Compete with Larger Companies

Many small businesses are competing against the big guys, who have enormous marketing budgets, connections with top public relations firms and can hire the best talent. Nonetheless, you can still succeed if you maintain focus. Focus on a specialty that the bigger companies are spread too thin to cover. Devote your time and resources to that niche and grow when the timing is right.

As a small company, focus on your pricing models. It’s possible that you can provide better products and services at a lower price than the larger companies if your company is running lean.

Above all, big companies tend to lose touch with their customers. Be a customer-centric company. Go above and beyond to ensure your customers are satisfied. Like I said before, your customers are your best salespeople; therefore, this strategy will pay off.

8. Optimize the Supply Chain

Recently, I discovered the small clothing company, American Giant who became an overnight success when Slate ran the article, “This Is the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made.”

What’s exciting about American Giant is they have redefined the supply chain by selling their products directly from the warehouse to the consumer, thus, investing in the quality of their clothing and passing the savings to their customers. Essentially, they’re shadowing the same model that software manufacturers have followed for years, which is direct-to-customer. They’ve removed unnecessary steps in the supply chain, which eliminates overhead costs associated with most clothing manufacturers.

The lesson learned? Don’t be afraid of creatively solving problems related to your supply chain. For small businesses to thrive, it’s vital to deliver quality products or services to your customers in a timely way. By identifying, reducing or eliminating non-value added activities in the supply chain; you can optimize profits and gain a competitive advantage.

Your Turn

What are the biggest challenges facing your small company? How have you overcome these problems? Please share your story or ideas in the comments below.

GTD Basics – Methods for Organizing Actions and To Dos in LifeTopix

LifeTopix is an all-in-one productivity app for iPad and iPhone. We have many customers who follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method and use LifeTopix to stay organized and productive. Many of these customers ask about the most efficient ways to use LifeTopix for GTD® and our best practices.

GTD, LifeTopix and the Organizing Phase

David Allen rewrote the “Getting Things Done” book for 2015 and beyond, which was originally published in 2001. In addition, LifeTopix has evolved since we first published the popular post, “Best Practices for Getting Things Done – Master Organizing” in 2013. We strive to keep our customers up-to-date and hope you enjoy the new information we’re providing for you today.

We previously published two posts described below. We encourage you to read those posts before diving into this one:

Master Organizing

The video below discusses the “Organizing” phase. When you organize actions and reference material, think about how you would sort these items into various areas. In an earlier post, we discussed using LifeTopix to define each collected item as actionable or non-actionable. Once you’ve completed clarifying items, you can begin organizing them (or this may be done simultaneously in LifeTopix).

Watch the Video

More to Come

In the next few weeks, we’ll be posting more videos and tips to assist you with utilizing LifeTopix for GTD. Please subscribe to the Life Blog to stay up-to-date.

Learn about the next phase: 

GTD Basics – Methods for Reflecting and Weekly Reviews in LifeTopix

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Successful CRM Recipes for the Small Business Owner

GTD Basics – Methods for Clarifying Actions and To Dos in LifeTopix

LifeTopix is an all-in-one productivity app for iPad and iPhone. We have many customers who follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method and use LifeTopix to stay organized and productive. Many of these customers ask about the most efficient ways to use LifeTopix for GTD® and our best practices.

GTD, LifeTopix and the Clarifying Phase

David Allen rewrote the “Getting Things Done” book for 2015 and beyond, which was originally published in 2001. In addition, LifeTopix has evolved since we first published the popular post, “Best Practices for Getting Things Done – Processing” in 2013. We strive to keep our customers up-to-date and hope you enjoy the new information we’re providing for you today.

We previously published a post about how to capture and collect all the things that are in your head and how to get them outside your head in LifeTopix. It is titled “GTD Basics – Methods for Capturing Items in LifeTopix.” We encourage you to take a look at the previous post before diving into this one.

Today, we’re covering what to do with actions, projects and to dos that you’ve collected after you decide what they are and what you want to do with them. In David Allen’s book, he refers to this phase as “Clarifying.”

Watch the Video

Important Information About LifeTopix Integrations

We understand that many of you want to use LifeTopix at the office and you want to ensure that it works with the applications that you commonly use. This is why LifeTopix is integrated with many of your favorite apps and applications. You can access docs, tasks and notes in LifeTopix from Dropbox™, Google Drive or Box™; Toodledo®, Asana™ or Google Drive; and Evernote® or Toodledo®, respectively. And LifeTopix works seamlessly with iOS calendars and reminders.

More to Come

In the next few weeks, we’ll be posting more videos and tips to assist you with utilizing LifeTopix for GTD. Please subscribe to the Life Blog to stay up-to-date.

Learn about the next phases: 

GTD Basics – Methods for Organizing Actions and To Dos in LifeTopix

GTD Basics – Methods for Reflecting and Weekly Reviews in LifeTopix

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Tempo Smart Calendar Discontinued: LightArrow Has A Top All-in-One Productivity App as an Alternative