The Best Decisions I've Made to Simplify My Life

On a recent flight home I was feeling especially appreciative about one of my favorite all-time purchases: my suitcase. I realized how this one item simplified so many things when traveling and made the experience less stressful.

It also got me thinking about other purchases I've made or things I've done that have helped me simplify my life. Some are pricey, some I use every day and others were changes that required some getting use to. But everything listed below has greatly helped me to remove stress and save time.

As a small business owner, these are two things you pretty always need!

These may not all apply to you and your situation but I encourage you to consider how they relate and how you may be able to adopt a similar method.

1) Buying a quality suitcase that looks very unique

When I bought my (just barely) carry-on sized suitcase right after grad school it was a major purchase for me. But I knew it would be a great investment and I was sooooo right about that!

First of all, the suitcase is brown zebra stripes. Yup, no mistaking that puppy coming down the conveyor belt at baggage claim! I travel quite a bit and I've yet to actually see another suitcase with my design. 

Aside from being awesomely unique though, it is also super practical. There are lots of compartments for organizing things, it's high quality and it's the perfect size for carrying on the plane or checking at baggage claim. 

2) Choosing to "splurge" on groceries

When my husband and I were in college and grad school we scrimped and saved. I'm talking extremely frugal. Now that we have stable income one of the things we've decided to invest in is groceries. I mean, what's more important than what you're putting in your body every day?!

For us, that means I automatically choose the organic options at the store, even the orange juice that is twice as much as the typical juice. We buy quality meat and lots of veggies. And the quality fancy chocolate, too... because we all need balance. 

So grocery shopping requires a lot less thinking and a lot more focus on enjoying my food.

3) Buying frozen vegetables

Somewhat related to above, we also try to buy things that are consistent and that we cook frequently. This means we don't have to think so much about what we're eating each day, because everything fits together well.

It also means we don't spend as much time cooking. We're busy and needed quick solutions. Frozen vegetables is an awesome solution. 

We always have healthy food to eat, it doesn't take long to cook, and we can split things up in different containers for meals to go. Seriously, this has been one of my lunch and dinner life-savers!

4) Putting my calendar on my phone

In college and graduate school, I always had a paper planner. I took that thing everywhere and wrote down every assignment, deadline, my work schedule, etc. 

Once I started working, I didn't need to track quite as many things going on... or so I thought. 

After a few years I realized that I really did need something to help me with planning. It was too easy to forget a doctor's appointment, household things that needed to be done, car maintenance, events with friends, etc. 

I went back to my trusty paper planning with an adorable planner (because buying a cute planner is half the fun of planning). However, it wasn't working out. I was getting even more busy and while the planner helped me plan ahead, it didn't remind me when things were happening. 

I found it more and more difficult to track things because I needed a planner I knew I would always have with me and I needed it to literally say "You've got this going on in 30 minutes."

I needed it be more of an assistant than a planner. That's when I made the commitment to use my phone's calendar. It integrates nicely with so many things and even reads my emails and asks if I want to add appointments sent that way... a bit scary, but it works! 

Now everything is in one spot, backed up by the cloud and on a device I have with me most of the time. I'm also able to integrate my client scheduler so my availability is up to date. No assistant needed!

5) Using reminders on my phone

Separate from the planner, I also use the reminders feature on my phone to give me quick reminders about quotes I like (daily inspiration), when to go to bed, what to follow up on, and when to meditate. 

Yes, I often need a reminder to go to bed. Check out the "Bedtime" option on the iPhone, it's awesome. 

6) Working out at home

I'm an extravert and I love going to the gym. I love being able to take a variety of fitness classes... yoga, pilates, cardio, barre, etc. However, going to the gym ends up taking much more time than the one hour of class. 

Some days I would find myself simply going for a jog around the neighborhood instead because I didn't have that extra time. Or I was interested in doing an exercise that wasn't offered at my gym and instead tried out videos at home.

Eventually, I made the commitment to work out at home and not have a gym membership. This may not be an option for everyone, but it's been a huge time-saver for me. 

It also helps me to maximize my ADHD strengths because I find it much more easy to write and concentrate on details after a work out. Research shows this is true for most people, but it's especially helpful for those of us with ADHD. Why waste that productivity driving home from the gym?!

7) Using one credit card for auto pay and another for regular expenses

This was a brilliant idea my husband had after the second time we experienced fraudulent charges on a credit card. It was so frustrating to go into all our online accounts (again!) and change all the info once we got our new cards with different numbers.

Now we have one credit card that we use for all our online, automatic payments or accounts (like the electric bill, Netflix and Amazon). We never use that card for anything else so it is less susceptible to getting hacked (since that typically happens at a kiosk or gas station). 

We have another card we use for every day expenses out and about. And yes, that one has gotten hacked since we made this change but when we received the new cards it wasn't a big deal. No worries about changing anything with our online accounts!

Side note: Obviously, auto pay whenever it is possible is another huge time saver with less stress!

8) Creating a password template

Rather than using one of the password creation/storage services or doing the old-fashioned method of writing down passwords, my husband and I created a password template. 

It's a phrase we created that includes capital and lower case letters, special characters, numbers and is easy to change on a regular basis (without forgetting what it changed to!). Identify a sentence or phrase and use only the first or last letters from that phrase so you don't have an easily identifiable word.

For example, let's say I want to use the phrase "Love your leadership role" and then I also my pet's birthday as the numbers but replace some of the numbers with special characters. We'll pretend my cat's birthday is February 5th 2010 (I have no clue when her birthday is but you get the idea!)...

The password could be:

  • 0205@)!)Lylr
  • 25!)Lylr
  • 0205!)Lylr
  • )@)%2010lylR

And so on... it looks really complicated but all you have to do is remember your phrase and which numbers you want to be characters. You can also choose a longer phrase and use fewer numbers/characters. 

This has made my life soooo much easier!

As a business owner you MUST find ways to simplify, automate and declutter. It's the best way to continue enjoying what you do rather than focusing on all the minutiae. 

And if you can encourage your employees and contractors to do the same, you're all improving efficiency and likely saving money.

Let me know in the comments below! What are your favorite strategies for simplifying your life?

My Biz Bestie Podcast is live!


Are you looking for a Biz Bestie? Not quite sure what that is but intrigued by the idea?

Well, my biz bestie and I started a podcast to help other women find the community they need to support their life and their business. 

Having a biz bestie has been a game changer for me and for many other women entrepreneurs. And we're going to show you how to find one and then make the best use of your networks. 

Click here to check out the podcast.

Qualities of the Best Bosses

I've had some great bosses and some awful bosses in my professional life. While all of those experiences may not have felt like a great experience in the moment, they did all teach me something about management, teamwork, and effective systems.

Rather than focus on the negative, I thought I'd focus on what my former bosses have all done well... and in particular, what qualities my best bosses all seemed to have in common. It is by studying those who are excellent at what they do that we can become better ourselves. 

So here are the qualities of some great bosses from my own professional life and the things I've attempted to emulate as a manager:

They value their employee's professional growth

A good boss chooses employees that are a great fit for the company, the project, the team, etc. However, a great boss will see the benefit in helping employees continue to grow professionally, even if that means they may grow out of your current position. 

I had one boss tell me very early on "You're going to get bored in this position after a while, so I want you to think about any special projects that may interest you and let me know when you need to be challenged.

Not only did that discussion boost my confidence and increase my feeling that she believed in me, it also prompted me to seek out more challenging tasks in that current role. As a result, I was able to make a large contribution to a major project within the company. I learned new skills, boosted my resume, and the company got a hard worker who provided some necessary expertise to a specific project. 

They take initiative with problem-solving

One sign of a poor manager is constantly reacting to situations. Instead, a good manager will look at the bigger picture and consider all the positives and negatives. They anticipate problems that may arise and have an idea about how to address those problems.

It's important to point out here that this is not something that is always spoken or obvious. Middle managers, for example, often foresee multiple problems in assignments passed down to them but still have to implement such projects. 

In these situations, a good boss will plan ahead to tackle those problems and warn their team (as appropriate) about potential concerns so everyone else is prepared. They also know when it is time to communicate those problems, and have at least one possible solution when they present it. 

They do whatever needs to be done to complete the project

A good boss doesn't have any qualms about doing the "dirty work" if it's needed to get the job done. That means they may get to the office early so they can bring breakfast and coffee for the team who is scrambling to meet a last minute deadline. They know when to stay late at the office and when to tell their team it's time for a break. 

Unfortunately, this also means that a great boss sometimes makes some difficult choices. They may have to let someone go because they are not able to be effective on the team. And they may have to ask their team to invest extra hours right before a holiday. However, they are always a participant when asking their employees to step up and do something uncomfortable. 

They advocate for their employee's needs

Whether it's through making sure employees have what they need from a customer, providing training opportunities, or pleading a case with a business partner, good bosses make their employees a priority

As a boss, your first role is to make sure your team can get the job done. 

That means breaking down barriers, improving communication, and filling in when needed. It also means sticking up for your employees when customers may want to put undue blame on them, and giving your employees the benefit of the doubt.

They share information that is relevant

The days of employees simply showing up at work and following orders are over. Blame it on the millennials if you want, but employees are genuinely interested in what is going on at a company and how they contribute to a mission. 

This is a great thing!

But it doesn't work well with old school ideas about hiding information from employees. Share the company wins, company losses, struggles, and the reasons for difficult decisions. When you share why you're doing certain things it is much less likely that morale will be impacted by decisions.

Breaking it down

Which of these qualities seems especially important to you? I encourage you to choose one that you feel strongly about and evaluate what you can do now to improve that quality. 

Talk with your team to get their feedback, discuss this quality with other business owners and do some research on techniques for improvement. Share in the comments below what you plan to work on and also let us know if you have any helpful tips that aren't listed here!

Want to improve your management skills but not sure where to begin? A Strategy Session might help you identify your strengths and how to maximize them with your team. Click here to schedule your Strategy Session and get actionable tips to make you a better leader today.

5 Ways to Infuse Happiness into Your Work Day

We all have those bad days at work… days when we wake up late only to discover there is a major accident causing traffic on our way to work, the boss was there waiting to discuss something important right away and then we find out someone else called in sick and we need to cover their workload.

Not. Fun.

Sometimes it feels like these days happen multiple times in a row and you’re stuck in a perpetual negative work rut. 

However, there are some quick ways you can infuse a little happiness into your work day.

These are nice and easy things that multiple studies have shown to improve your mood. And you can do them discreetly on your lunch break, before walking in to work, or any time during the day.

1. Try a journaling exercise.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be long! However, identifying things about which you are thankful is proven to increase happiness.

A short investment in time and money is The Five Minute Journal, which encourages you to write out three things you are thankful for each day. It also encourages you to identify daily goals and an affirmation, then check in for five minutes at the end of your day. Five minutes at the beginning and five minutes at the end of your day. Now that’s doable.

2. Download an app to help you appreciate the positive things.

Not into writing? No problem!

You can download an app like Happify which asks you a series of questions to learn about what may be causing you stress and then assigns you daily activities based on the recommended “track” to address your answers.

Or you can purchase the Five Minute Journal app and add pictures about the things you’re thankful for, or take notes directly on your phone. You could even do your own challenge by setting a reminder on your phone to draw or take a picture of something you’re thankful for each day.

3. Write a thank you letter to a mentor, friend, family member, etc.

This video below shows just how impactful this task can be… and the more unhappy you’re feeling, the more likely it is this will boost your mood!

4. Set reminders with affirmations.

Do a google search of things like “positive affirmations for managers” or “positive affirmations for work” and then write down those quotes in your phone as a reminder to go off every 1-2 weeks.

If you keep about 10 of these in your phone, set at different times, you’ll get a nice little reminder to stay positive or appreciate something throughout your work week.

5. Phone a friend.

As the Soul Pancake video shows, people’s moods were obviously lifted when talking to the people for whom they were thankful. Think of a friend or family member who is usually positive or provides an empathic ear and give them a call to say hello. It’s likely they’ll appreciate hearing from you and both of your moods will get a little lift!

If morale at work is poor, you can even share some of these tips and try to get your colleagues working on their happiness. It’s likely that you’re all influencing one another, so do your best to make a positive contribution. 

And if you’re still feeling stressed out after trying one or two of these strategies, feel free to check out my Strategy Sessions.

Make sure you’re in control of your actions and emotions and creating positive things for your life. After all, you didn't start a business to be more stressed out than in a regular job!

Why I Decided To Quit My Job… All Five of Them

In eight years I’ve had five very different jobs. Some of them overlapped and some lasted longer than others. The consistent thread among the five of them is that I’ve left them all on my own terms and felt very good about that decision each time. 

However, deciding whether or not to leave a job is not something to take lightly.

I carefully thought it through each time and there were different reasons based on each job and that time of my life. 

The job I left because I hated it

My first full-time job was a poor fit from early on. Unfortunately, the manager who hired me left very soon after I started and the position morphed into something different from that for which I was originally hired.

However, I was committed to staying there for at least one year because I was gaining necessary training related to my career and trying to provide some consistency for clients under my care. 

There were good and bad moments with that job.

  • I formed some wonderful friendships and felt very supported by my colleagues.

  • I learned priceless strategies for managing my time in a busy environment.

  • I was exposed to clinical experiences I would not have chosen to put myself in, but those experiences have proven valuable throughout many points in my career to date. 

However, I knew the job was not what I wanted and I was not paid well for the stressful work.

I began to resent the company and dreaded going in to work each day. I came home feeling exhausted because it was emotionally taxing to be there knowing it was not a good fit. I stopped working out, didn’t eat as well and gained weight. I wasn’t always fun to be around. 

Basically, the negativity surrounding my work was permeating every other area of my life.

I pulled through for exactly one year and left on good terms. Thankfully, I was also working just two days a week as a contractor for another company and when I left this job I was able to obtain more hours there. Which brings me to that position…

The job I left because I wasn’t growing

I originally started this job to make some extra money while working in my previous position, and because it was work I truly loved. As I started to work more hours I was able to learn some new skills and take on additional responsibilities. My coworkers were fun (for the most part) and the schedule was flexible.

This was the good life!

However, three years later, I was still doing exactly the same work. The job was very specific and the company was a small business so there was no room for advancement or expanding my position.

It was difficult to leave this position because of the many perks, but I realized that I wanted to grow in my clinical skills and it wasn’t going to happen staying there. 

I looked around for other jobs and had the good fortune of finding something that would be a good transition fairly quickly. It seemed like something that would provide me a lot of opportunities in a new area of my industry so I took it. 

The job I left because I had a new opportunity

This next job was also a really great fit for me and I learned soooo many things. I found out that training was a skill of mine and was given opportunities to pursue this more. I worked with a supportive, hardworking and intelligent team of people. My boss was the best I’d ever had (and still have ever had). 

Every job has its ups and downs so things weren’t perfect but as far as jobs go, it was a pretty great deal.

I knew going in that this wouldn’t be a long-term position and my boss knew this, as well. She offered me opportunities to grow as much as possible but some point it became clear it was time for me to look into entry-level management (since my ultimate goal was to manage my own business). 

I used the fact that I had a good job to take my time and select what would be a good stepping stone for me.

I talked to my boss about it. I spent time asking lots of questions during interviews, and then identified what was a good chance for me to gain some management experience and new responsibilities. 

The job I left because I needed flexibility

This new management position was for a much smaller company so I ended up doing some things that were well beyond what I had done before, but also things that our program assistant in our previous company had done. I learned about management, represented the company at district meetings and was given the opportunity to pursue a lot of my training interests.

However, at this time I had also started my own business on the side and it was begging for more of my free time.

My commute was one hour each way to and from work. I struggled to manage things at home while also starting a business. I needed some flexibility.

Again, I took the opportunity to look for other positions while I still had a good job. I looked for jobs that would be closer to home or provide telecommuting options.

I also approached my boss about flexible work options, something that was really hard for me to do. He was very understanding and didn’t say “no” but he said “not yet.” 

That kept me looking until I found the perfect solution… a job that would allow me to telecommute two days a week and also gave me a large pay increase.

My future boss seemed great and it was something totally new where I could learn more skills. I dove in head first. 

The job I left because the company was poorly managed

My next (and last) job was honestly a train wreck from week one.

Some things were amazing:

  • My boss was really great and she was teaching me so much.
  • I was now managing a larger team and had the opportunity to impact program policies because we were starting this from the ground up.
  • I was learning new clinical skills.

However, the upper management of the company was working from a traditional management mindset that suits factory employees rather than a motivated team of highly educated people.

There was inconsistency and the company espoused values that were no where near the actions or policies enacted. 

Due to poor communication, lack of planning, and short-sighted and abrupt decisions, the program began to struggle very early on. That put pressure on everyone involved. I was required to relay bad news to my employees on a regular basis.

Morale was low and things continued to go from bad to worse. 

Thankfully, I was able to turn lemons into lemonade and use one of these unfortunate circumstances in my favor. I finally decided it was time to focus on my business full-time. The timing was perfect because moral dilemmas in management were becoming more common and I could no longer support what was happening in the company or the program. 

My personal values were out of alignment with the values expressed by the company.

I was no longer growing as a professional and I had the opportunity to pursue my own business. It was time to call it quits for the last time. 

Life Lessons

So what have I learned from all these career moves?

Your work impacts your life in a multitude of ways that include so much more than just money. Finding a good fit is priceless, but the job that is a good fit for you now may not be a great fit two years from now.

If you’re trying to decide whether or not it’s time to leave your job, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my boss provide me the support I need?
  • Am I growing professionally (learning new skills, exposed to opportunities, etc.)?
  • How do I feel when I arrive home from work each day?
  • How does this job fit in to my long-term career goals?
  • Are there things I can adjust now to make my job better?

It’s important to identify how much of a conflict it is for you to work in your position at your company.

If the company’s values aren’t in alignment with your values, that is when conflict and discomfort is likely to arise. Or perhaps your skills and goals are not a good fit for the needs of the position (e.g. being over or under-qualified). 

Evaluating the situation as objectively as possible and identifying the potential mismatch can help you decide what action to take next.

That may be looking for other jobs, asking your boss for training, or deciding on a timeline for advancement so that you feel motivated to stay where you are and gain all the experience you can. 

If you’re still not sure where you fit in to the working world, a strategy session can provide you guidance that is based on your interests, skills and potential for growth.

Don't let doubt or worry keep you from achieving a more fulfilling life.