The end of the year can mean time for creative brainstorming or organizing your business to promote better productivity in the workplace. Stefanie and Sharon share their own best practices and productivity habits.
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Stefanie LaHart: So you know Sharon Noot it is December so now we’re getting all of the checklist and all of the things thrown at us where people are like doing like end of the year sales and end of the year you know checklist and all kinds of like this is what you should do immediately on January first, and of course, I feel like we have to throw ourselves in there and I was thinking, you know, we talk about it sometimes but what would be some good end of the year practices for entrepreneurs and business owners and it doesn’t just have to be marketing ideas but just running your business in general because we’re both, business owners and you know we do a lot of the work ourselves so end of the year stuff what do you think about?
Sharon Noot: We do all of the work ourselves, I don’t know, you don’t have a big staff of people helping you right?
Stefanie LaHart: No I have a quite a few contractors I work with.
Sharon Noot: Okay. Well! I mean I don’t work with contractors per say, I might work with another freelancer a consultant on a project but I don’t have support in the office just like I don’t think you do and I think a lot of entrepreneurs don’t have that so we sort of have to do everything ourselves, for me one of the biggest things I do at the end of the year is that sort of obvious I do just a complete cleansing of like my computer files like clean up the inbox, clean up the subscriptions to stuff that at some point, subscribe to a newsletter and I don’t read it anymore I don’t need any more. I clean up everything so that I feel like I can start the New Year with some sense of organization. Actually I was going to ask you because you are the digital maven. Do you use any kind of program to keep your subscription e-mails in the newsletters or getting to keep them organized or maybe they go into one place or it automatically unsubscribed or I mean I don’t know there were some things that were out there that helped keep that you know under control and I didn’t know if you use that or any kind of an e-mail manager basically.
Stefanie LaHart: Well I pull out my mail through Google Mail like e-mail so with the tabs in the way that stuff gets filed automatically be you know between the updates and promotions and all I find it pretty easy. I think all of the e-mail list at this point anything, you subscribe to goes into promotions. So everything’s in that folder, so honestly, I am one of those people that lets all of my email just like sit in there and whether I read it or not I don’t even bother deleting it.
Sharon Noot: Really!
Stefanie LaHart: Yes I don’t go through my box and clean start out.
Sharon Noot: As part of my spring cleaning I try to at least, get rid of, some you know old things that you know I mean come on there’s going to be junk mail that you delete right like completely delete so it’s gone off your computer?
Stefanie LaHart: Well no because with G.mail they filter out any like real junk mail. If you’re talking about if there’s a subscription I’m no longer interested in Generally I’ll let stuff build up and then maybe, I don’t know maybe every once in awhile I’ll just go through and just get on a rampage where I’ll see stuff pop up and I’ll start unsubscribing from stuff but I don’t really have a regular habit of it because, like I said which email because it does put everything into these folders I really don’t give a crap how much builds up in there. I know visually just by kind of peeking at what I’m even interested in reading, and then every once in a while just do a full email delete on a folder like one of the updater promotion and just delete everything it’s probably a good idea what you’re saying is to actually start unsubscribing from some of this stuff.
Sharon Noot: That will clean up a lot of your e-mail issues one way or another, I find that I’ll just… there are a lot of things you have to subscribe to in order to get access to something as you know maybe I’m reading a white paper or doing something where they absolutely will not let you get what you want unless you put in an e-mail address and I unsubscribe from all of those things, but also all just get my computer files organized, I might have things that are in the wrong folders or things that I saved on the desktop. I make it a time to go through and make sure everything is where it should be, and try to get some semblance of organization back on my computer.
Stefanie LaHart: Okay, so it’s interesting, so you’re really like looking at it as a time of like cleaning up and getting things organized and you know feeling like you’re ready to go, into the New Year.
Sharon Noot: Well in P.R. I don’t know if it’s like this for you but P.R. typically depending on the industry you’re working in but it’s fairly common in P.R. to be a very quiet period between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the year because a lot of journalists are also inaccessible people are on vacation people are kind of winding down for the holidays any Christmas or holiday or New Year’s or anything seasonal related in P.R. We have already worked out with reporters months ago. Stuff it’s already been completely side up, any gift guide stuff you’re going to do, any seasonal stories those are done in this late summer that’s already put to bed so, this is the time of year with things slow down and I think this is just back from my old P.R. days at the agency. The agency would be slow, so what we’d all do is clean our offices, clean up our e-mails get organized for the New Year new that kind of thing.
Stefanie LaHart: That’s so funny, that totally makes sense and my business is the exact opposite. Because social media is so timely and live, once like anything like the holiday season hits. It’s nothing but work and promotions and really, you know getting messaging out. Even though there is stuff that we plan obviously in schedule, I find that I get busier during this time like my whole week…. I was going to say my whole week, it’s only what is? It it’s like Wednesday today we’re recording I feel like it should be Friday because I’ve been so busy this week.
Sharon Noot: Its strange P.R. a lot of the industries have moved in that direction because so much of it is digital and that’s online. But then there are other traditional industries where, if it’s a print publication of any kind for example those things are still planned very far in advance. So, it’s a little bit of a mix depending on what industry you’re talking about, but for the most part I think when you’re working with a journalist, we you are working with anyone even vendors right now are kind of slowing down at least through on a January 1st so that’s my time to get organized. One of the things I wanted to ask you is do you send, holiday cards to your clients or your vendors or your business associates or do you not do that?
Stefanie LaHart: I used to, I don’t typically do it anymore because I found that they just really got ignored and there are now so many people do it there’s really a flood of them. So if I have an email list that I’ve been in communication with for a while, that is something that I would send out maybe to them but just like kind of a general like blanket thing to my clients, honestly, I don’t even send those out anymore. Mainly
Sharon Noot: Me neither I don’t think there’s a value in it anymore and I don’t think that it’s worth the time. I think it’s a nice sentiment I might have a few clients that I’ve just worked with for a long time and I’ll do a personalized card or something for them but nothing in the e-mails that just go out to everybody and no cards that get sent out in mass I think that that’s sort of a necessary I think for a lot of small business owners. Of course, you’re mileage may vary.
Stefanie LaHart: No that’s exactly it, like I don’t do like a blanket generic thing, I have a few personal things I would send out maybe even like a physical card but I just yes I found that just doing a blanket e-mail is just you know wasteful people don’t read it it’s not yet and they know it’s all just mass so they’re not really like saying oh this person’s thinking of me but there are a few clients that I actually physically reach out to and I might even leave them a voice mail or something like that. I think that really harkens again back to the whole thing that you know you have to do more personalization these days because it’s so easy to send out like blast and so many people do it now and they get ignored, you know.
Sharon Noot: Welcome to the world of the PR person trying to reach a journalist it’s like that it was, in the old days, and it’s like that even more now. It’s really all about having a relationship or having the right story for the right journalist, that’s could be a whole other topic so… Do you have one well you want to suggest before I get on to something else?
Stefanie LaHart: Yes! So it’s interesting that you’re taking the time you know to clean things up and organize because, for me, like I said because I do have so much work going on and it is all about the seasonal messaging going out. It makes me start… I feel very creative in my business then I start thinking of all the new things I want to do for the next year or so I start doing a lot of list making brainstorming and things that I’m going to start doing in January or that I’m getting ideas, that would be a really good way to either target my business or maybe generate new clients. So for me in December I do nothing but write down, I call them I brainstorm ideas you should see my office I have like sticky notes everywhere right now, of just things that have kind of come across my vortex, you know I love that word. And I get really excited and I just find I don’t know maybe it’s just the holidays like I’m just in a really happy receptive mood, I think that’s why they ideas come to me so I do a lot of planning and brainstorming like Creative wise, like not like working out like a strict plan but just seeing stuff that I’ve seen that have worked or things that I think would be interesting, that should be something that I should really look into you know come the new year. So for me it’s definitely about you know, getting excited for the next year.
Sharon Noot: I was going to ask you about you know New Year’s resolutions or something of the sort that falls into the same category; it’s their plans for the next year whether it be operational or creative or client based and you know deciding to try a new way of doing business. For example, you know implementing a new system, in fact I wanted to ask you… in that in that same vein a while ago you had told me that you were abandoning a lot of your quote unquote digital organizational tasks, for example, you were going analog, you were going to start writing down your To Do list that writing down your calendar entries and completely leaving the digital world behind going back to old school. Are you still doing that?
Stefanie LaHart: You have such a good memory. Okay, so that lasted literally maybe a day. I bought a calendar I was very excited about I started writing things down and then probably within 48 hours it got buried on my desk and it became one of those things that I would look at me like I should write it down there but honestly, I jumped back to digital so fair go I should have thought I should have put that calendar on eBay for sale immediately because it was such a waste of my money. Listen I am looking at my screen the entire time and for me that is where all my attention is focused so my analog experiment was a big fail. And I’m going to be totally honest about it.
Sharon Noot: I was going… that’s because I want to bring it up because I didn’t know if that was something I should put on my January 1 New Year’s resolutions that maybe I should try a little bit that, but apparently no.
Stefanie LaHart: Well I mean it works for some people, listen there’s like a whole tribe of people out there that are all into the journaling, in the bullet journals and the books and the really nice in these beautiful brown books that they carry around and all that crap. You know what? That is cumbersome to me and also becomes another object in my life that I have to figure out what to do with, and I found that my best productivity comes from like doing everything online so I make all kinds of you know Google documents and things like that and I love it because everything’s accessible no matter where I’m at, so I don’t have to be carrying around a schedule book or a journal or something I mean I could be at a meeting and be like “I don’t have my book with me I don’t know what I’m doing” I just pull out my phone I’m like yes I got that.
Sharon Noot: All the different kinds of journaling words practically Scrapbooking, it’s practically an art form, in itself. I’ve been sucked into, looking at some of those sites in the different things they have and they look so creative and they have all the stickers and you have 7 different color pens and you’re doing and I’m like wow that looks so fun, it’s like being a kid again but I’m not artistic in that way and I know that I would sit there and up just writing down a bunch of stuff in my you know penmanship I can’t even read my own writing and it would go nowhere and my, bullet journal would look nothing like what the ones that look like on online that you are looking at. It’s like I want that person’s life, I don’t want to journal, I want to have all those fun things written down in the stickers and feel like you know, cute and funny and I think it’s just you know it reminds me of being really high school, so maybe it’s just sort of, one of those things that it’s a romanticizing being organized when in reality the most functional way to be organized is probably not necessarily, that method. At least for me and for you, so we will stick to the computer.
Stefanie LaHart: I love what you just said it’s romanticizing being organized, that is so true. Let me just put that out there to people, stop buying the fancy journals it’s not helping, like you’re just wasting your time. Trying to do like oh I’m going to use different pens and stickers are color coded and make it beautiful. Listen I have another problem with that because you know I’m in a phase in my life where I’m really like trying to get rid of stuff that I don’t need and downsizing, it becomes another piece of crap I’ve got a store in my office. Oh okay, that’s great I used to journal all year it’s beautiful I wrote everything down, am I ever going to go back and look at that thing? No, now it’s on my bookshelf. So no, I’m not falling for the journal thing anymore, I’m really not.
Sharon Noot: It’s also a form of procrastination if you think about it. I mean the more you sit down and you decorate a page, listing out all the things you need to get done that day you’re probably not doing the things you need to get done that day.
Stefanie LaHart: Exactly, and let me just also go back and say, in regards to journaling where you’re kind of writing down like your thoughts are you’re just using it more like for therapy that kind of journaling that’s fine I do that all the time. But me using a Business Journal that I’m going to sit there and do all that crap no that’s not happening.
Sharon Noot: I think that it’s a certain type of personality that may be going through that process, is part of the creative process and makes you know, gives you a ideas or makes you feel motivated but you have to be that kind of person and buying the journal will not turn you into that kind of person and I know I love the idea of it, I love the way it looks, I love the way people use it but I know that it wouldn’t work for me. Can you just can you buy one that’s already complete?
Stefanie LaHart: Yes with the life. Listen we only have 5 minutes left because we’re trying to keep our podcast 20 minutes and under. What else can we talk what else can we tell people you know, what’s a good end of the year practice, some ideas we can give our business owners. We already talked about organizing, maybe brainstorming, we told them to get rid of the journaling thing that’s a waste of time. How about we just look, how about we give ourselves a little pat on the back at the end of the year can we throw that in? I don’t think it’s as entrepreneurs we do that enough, where we just look back and say you know what I did some good stuff this year.
Sharon Noot: Right I was going to say having a little bit of you know some down time, is really important and taking a break and if you’re right I think a lot of people who are self employed were so busy worrying about, the aspects of running our business that we don’t stop and really think about the job that we’re doing it’s one of the things I think you don’t get when you’re not in an office with other people you don’t have a boss or a mentor that day to day that will, coach you and be a shoulder to cry on and give you encouragement. I mean if I need any of that I have to call you, so and we don’t do that nearly enough just to say hey great job right?
Stefanie LaHart: I don’t think we ever call each other and say, hey great job and guess what Sharon Noot; I have to tell you something. Great job on this whole podcast.
Sharon Noot: You know what it’s really you should be the one that commended; this is… what a great idea.
Stefanie LaHart: Well think it is funny, listen, I’m going to call you out Sharon Noot never looks at our website, she never listens to our podcast, she listens to 20 other podcast but not ours, but I’m telling you it turned out great and we’re getting really great positive feedback on the whole thing. We’re getting good reviews, so thank you for taking this journey with me because it has been fun not just for business but because I get to talk to my best friend.
Sharon Noot: Well this is the only time we really get talked to each other, and I’m sure that I’m not the first person on the planet that doesn’t like to listen to yourself. Everybody knows that there’s a lot of people and who time I have time to listen my podcast, I have to listen to the other ones that I’m learning from.
Stefanie LaHart: And that’s a lie, we do talk about things other than business and a lot of times is about sex.
Sharon Noot: Well that’s not that… this isn’t that kind of podcast.
Stefanie LaHart: I just wanted to throw that in there just to crêpe you up.
Sharon Noot: Does that make us have to have an explicit rating?
Stefanie LaHart: No.
Sharon Noot: Okay then, I’m fine. You just wanted to see if you could shock me.
Stefanie LaHart: I did I was just playing with you there. It’s the end of the year; you said we’re allowed to relax.
Sharon Noot: Right, well what are what before we go what things do you do, to give yourself a break at the end of the day? You know both of us we’re not we’re not drinkers we don’t do the wine we’re not going to go party what do you do to reward yourself after a hard day’s work?
Stefanie LaHart: Well actually when I quit drinking 5 years ago now, I got into fancy tea. So I do like a fancy tea at the end of the day now.
Sharon Noot: Really!
Stefanie LaHart: Yes I replace one beverage for another.
Well do you have little special like special cups that you use and decorated plate wear?
Stefanie LaHart: I have special cups and specialty tea holders, no biscuits, I like to do the loose tea and everything so it’s all fancy but yes, I have I have a whole tea ritual. I can’t believe I’ve ever told you that.
Sharon Noot: I know that you like tea one time you asked me to look for some tea when I was travelling and I just thought you just, you know, sort of like to casually it. I didn’t know you have a whole ritual going on there.
Stefanie LaHart: I do and it made it easier to stop drinking, I just replaced one beverage for another.
Sharon Noot: Well that’s a good idea because it’s a whole you have a whole process that goes along with it.
Stefanie LaHart: So what do you do?
Sharon Noot: What do I do… well I play video games. How about that?
Stefanie LaHart: Right, Sharon Noot is the video game Queen.
Sharon Noot: No I’m not a video game Queen, I am not good at any video games, but I still enjoy playing video games or I might take a bath or I watch my favorite sports or I spend time with my significant other but I just make sure that I am not in my office the biggest thing is since my office is my home I have to make sure I remove myself from that room, so I have a sense of closure at the end of the day which, is difficult and I think people who work from home know how difficult that is.
Stefanie LaHart: That’s true it is true you have to have kind of a separation of church and state as they say.
You have experience working on an offsite place maybe one other time we could talk about the benefits of that and whether or not it’s worth the money to actually, use one of those shared work spaces because you’ve experimented with that and I have not, so that a good topic for another time.
Sharon Noot: Absolutely, alright, guess what? We’re on our 20 minute mark and I’m going to hold us to it. And I think we got some good tips in there Sharon Noot, so thank you again so much for coming along on this podcast ride with me and if you guys have any questions or comments please leave them on our website our website is up, tradigital podcast.com We would love to hear from you and if you have ideas for shows you know throw them out there too, and with that said Miss Sharon Noot that’s a wrap.
Stefanie LaHart: Alright I feel like it should be Friday but it’s not so well.
Sharon Noot: The Friday is coming. Okay I’ll talk to that bye.
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