Speaking with the incomparable David Azeez – CEO of Airge International Limited, a parent company that caters to the various lines of products and services he runs – Cheers with David Azeez, Bonds and Beauty Management Company, The Red Letters, Salt Square and Kayfets Foods. A powerful message of persistence and perseverance in this episode. Don’t miss it! Connect with David on Twitter at @DavidAzeez_

How to Make Processes Which Maximize Your Productivity

by Benjamin Brandall on June 19, 2017

Maintaining high productivity is a struggle we all face.

As I sit writing this now, I can’t help but see the city skyline bathed in sun through the windows which line the room. The warmth eeks through the open doors and windows and the urge to nip out for lunch swells inside me.

At the same time, the political scene recently has been a flurry of big moments and captivating narratives – the headlines call out to me.

But I have to write.

I have to focus.

How do I keep my focus when surrounded by distractions? The answer I’ve found which keeps me pinned to my chair and my fingers glued to my keyboard is the art of following a process.

I’ll explain to you why I’m such an advocate for processes, what processes I use, and how you can build the processes you need to drive you forward each day.

Why processes are vital to your productivity

Let’s start with a simple stat.

According to Kermit Pattison, writing for Fast Company, interruptions are costing you a lot of time. In fact, the average time wasted as a result of switching tasks is 23 minutes and 15 seconds.

If you’re trying to complete multiple tasks per day, you put yourself at risk of losing a considerable amount of working time. In short, your productivity could be taking a nosedive.

By following a process, you can keep your mind focused not just on the task at hand but clearly on what task you’re going to do next. Instead of finishing one item on your to do list and wondering about what to get cracking with next, you flow straight into the following item.

This fluidity and clarity in your workflow seems almost too simple to make any meaningful change. I mean, it’s only careful planning, right?

Well, yes. But planning is crucial to your success.

Most of the time we don’t recognize the weaknesses in our own workflows because we’re so engrossed in them. So, here’s a tip. Check out a tool like RescueTime which you can install on your computer so that it tracks everything you do. It will see what websites or programs you’ve been using and then generate a report for you to show you how you allocate your time.

Don’t build your work practices on what you think you’re doing, build them on what you’re actually doing. You’ll see your inefficiencies more clearly and be better equipped to tackle them.

The processes I use to write these articles

At Process Street, we have a rule that you must make a process for any task you expect to do more than twice.

Let’s look at two of these processes. One general and one task specific.

The general one is how I approach my working day. I use Trello for my task management and each day I start off by sorting through my tasks to see what I wish to accomplish that day. I then take each task which I want to complete and move them into my To Do column.

Anything in my To Do column gets done that day. Anything not in my To Do column does not.

This act of defining what I need to focus on helps me gain focus. I can then go into each task and think about what needs to be done to accomplish my goals. If it’s a research task then I will put a short checklist in my card outlining the steps I expect to take. If it is a common task like writing then I know I will use one of my premade processes to follow.

In each card I note the amount of time I expect the task to take and I order my cards to clearly show which I’ll do first through to which I’ll do last.

This initial planning starts my day off with a moment of considered thought and saves me probably an hour or more each day.

If I’m going to be writing an article that day for our blog, I’ll specify which of my custom built processes I intend to use. Our pre-publish checklist is one which we share across the team and have all contributed to building.

This checklist is engineered to make sure every article we publish adheres to the high standards we set ourselves. There are a lot of small steps involved in this quality control:

  • Check every link points to the right place
  • Make sure all capitalization adheres to our style guidelines
  • Run spell check in American English
  • Make sure all images are coded correctly with keyword optimized alt tags

There are 30+ steps in our pre-publish checklist. That’s a lot of steps to remember without a process. Time after time our process guides us in the right direction and makes sure we don’t miss simple mistakes.

This process gives us quality assurance.

How can you build processes which work for you?

Building processes is a long term strategy.

Not just because these processes help create consistent quality or garner small productivity gains every day which add up over time, but because processes exist to be improved.

Start off by noting down all the steps you can think of which contribute to the completion of a task. This is your base process.

If you work within a team, it’s a very good idea to collaborate on this process creation. You can compare approaches and priorities which can improve the overall performance of the team, while moving toward a standardized approach to establish consistency and improve the scalability of your team, in case you look to hire further members.

Begin following the documented process you have drafted and take note of a couple of key variables:

  • How long does this take me?
  • Are there any tasks which I’ve left out?
  • Have I included unnecessary tasks?
  • What does my team think of the process?

Each of those questions will tell you something different, and each will point you in a different direction for optimizing the process.

Once you’ve systemized your business through these processes, it is much easier to create performance metrics to target – ones which are realistic and don’t negatively impact on quality.

With better performance metrics you can more accurately predict output and, in turn, overall company performance.

Understanding your own productivity and knowing how to measure it is the first step to really understanding your own company and recognizing effective ways to improve performance.

Build processes, productivity, and your company

Don’t take my word for it.

I’ve given you the necessary tools to test your own performance for yourself. I’ve laid out the steps required to begin to implement processes and to track their performance.

Try it out for yourself and see what the results are.

The most successful companies in the world are ones with strong operating practices. That’s no coincidence.

Use your own productivity as a base from which to systemize your business, and start today!

Have you used process optimization in your business before? Let me know your success stories in the comments below!

Connect on Twitter!

Marketing is easier now than ever before, but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. You need to know a little bit about psychology, analytics and best practices in order to be a great marketer, but you also need great tools to accomplish your goals and visions.

Luckily it’s possible to achieve your marketing dreams while on a budget. There are tons of free online marketing tools out there, and here’s four I’ve really come to love.

Pablo by Buffer

Visual content is winning these days. It’s not enough to tweet — you also need an image attached. Posts with just text don’t get the same kind of engagement statistics that posts with images or videos do. Explainer videos are more popular than text-based how-to guides — and the same goes for infographics.

Don’t worry if you aren’t exactly inclined when it comes to photography or graphics. Sites like Pablo by Buffer let you choose an image, edit and crop it to fit your social media and business theme. Quickly add text to any image, as well as your logo.

Answer The Public

Your audience has burning questions, and they want answers. What are these questions? Some you can reason out with analytics data, interviews and some research, but that still doesn’t paint a total picture of what information your audience is really looking for.

If you want to know how to truly give your audience content they can find valuable, use Answer the Public. This tool allows business owners to search through keywords and questions posed by Internet users based on keywords related to their business. This makes it easier to produce content that your audience can actually find useful, promoting your brand image and garnering more organic hits.

Moz Local: Check Listing

What is your business NAP? This acronym stands for the most important contact methods you have available: your business Name, Address and Phone number. Get it now?

Your NAP is essential to marketing online, but how this information shows up can vary depending on the particular search engine you’re using. Moz Local: Check Listing allows business owners to enter their business link into the generator and receive information about how their business shows up across popular search engines like Bing, Yahoo! and (of course) Google. This gives you a good picture of how your customers view you online.

Portent’s Title Generator

Finally, Portent’s Title Generator is perfect for those who want to work on their content marketing strategies. A catchy title is the easiest way to get someone to click on a blog or article you have hosted on your website, but not everyone is great at coming up with a valuable yet intriguing blog title.

The way this generator works is that you come up with a subject and type it into the field provided — that’s all the work you need to do. If your business is focused on cosmetics, type in “cosmetics” or “makeup.” If you’re an entrepreneur interested in public speaking, type in “motivation” or “positivity.” From there, all it takes is the click of a button and you’ve got tons of creative titles to choose from.

This episode gives a few words on the importance of self-activation/self-starting. When opportunities seem to be slim to none — use what you have and start exactly where you are. There’s no guest dishing the goods this episode, just a quick spill to sum up the following words, “Find your own place in your own space.” – Keetria

Branding yourself or a business for the first time can be scary. After all, your brand is your business image and identifying feature. It’s something you should put a lot of thought into, isn’t it?

Yes. Sometimes business plans are stalled due to branding concerns, that’s how important branding can be for a business. When it comes to your own brand, you need to be just as diligent. You assert that diligence by asking important questions.

Your questions should be focused on one thing: brand completion. These questions should lead you to finalize your branding decisions, further cementing your brand as a true winner. These three questions in particular can help you develop a truly killer branding scheme.

“What would my brand look like if it was a person?”

I’ve talked about it before, but your brand has a personality. In fact, it is the representation of your business’ personality. What else has personalities? People!

If you’re trying to pin down who your business really is, actually look at it from the angle of it being a real, living person. What does your brand look like? What do they sound like? Are they in their 40s with three kids? Are they black or white, or maybe another race altogether? Are they a male with entrepreneurial goals?

Establishing a face helps you put into perspective the voice that goes along with that face. If when you finally pin down who this person is, you can further shape your business’ brand identity.

“Do I know how people will react to my brand?”

If you’ve ever seen an article about a huge branding mistake and wondered “how did they let that happen?,” it’s usually because those who create branding schemes have tunnel vision without outside perspective. When the only opinion in the room is your own, it’s easy to think you’re 100% right.

Getting outside data is always important when it comes to branding. This helps you identify the public response to your branding. It’s not always as salacious as a branding strategy being offensive or downright horrible — sometimes it’s the little things that can really make a difference. Analytic data can help you fine-tune your brand from the inside out.

“Is this a brand I can live with forever?”

Make no mistake — you can change your branding down the line. In fact, many businesses do exactly that in order to revitalize their image. However, just as many brands remain the same, or only implement small tweaks, during the longevity of their business.

You may not stick with your brand as is, but the branding strategy and scheme you choose should be one that you could feasibly use for as long as you’re in business. The biggest takeaway is that your brand scheme can’t be slapped together — once it’s final, you have to live with it.

Think of branding questions as exercises in creativity and business knowledge. Asking and answering questions like these helps you stay in touch with the heart and purpose of your business. The more thought you put into your branding, the less likely it is that your business will be a flash in the pan.

Spring is in full swing and summer is approaching at a breakneck pace. Before we know it, fall will be upon us…but in the meantime, we’ve got some exercising to do!

Summer is largely about fitness, whether it’s getting ready for bikini season or being active outside with friends and family during school and work vacations. It’s also a time period where you see a spike in fitness novices trying to get out there and embrace fitness wholeheartedly. These newbies look for information online and on television from those they think they can trust — the secrets to achieving perky butts and flat bellies.

Sure, there are fitness secrets out there that do work, but there are many more myths out there that are way too good to be true. If you’re interested in getting fit this year, avoid these fitness myths like the plague.

“Lots of sweat = lots of fat burning.”

It’s a phrase that’s commonly tossed around: “more sweat, less fat!” Some exercise junkies use this as a mantra, and their confirmation bias comes out when they lose the pounds after rigorous exercise routines.

The truth is that sweat has no real correlation to how much fat you’re burning off. Sweating is biological and helps to regulate your body’s temperature. Sweating at all is a good indicator that you are pushing your limits, but there’s no correlation to sweating and fat loss.

“Crunches are the best go-to exercise.”

Make no mistake, crunches are great for exercising your core and abdomen. They’re a great beginner’s exercise that is easy to utilize for measuring your exercise journey. You’ll find them hard to do at first, especially if you’re trying to do them quickly, but they’ll become easier over time.

However, they shouldn’t be your exercise crutch. Many believe that crunches are the quickest way to a flat stomach and lower body fat, but that certainly isn’t the case. The best way to lose fat is to burn a lot of calories, but crunches don’t actually burn that many. Don’t rely on crunches alone if you want a beach body this summer.

“The longer you’re in the gym, the better off you’ll be.”

Finally, there’s a common myth floating around that the harder you push, the faster you’ll lose all that weight you want to get rid of. In fact, the opposite is actually true. Of course it’s a good idea to go to the gym, but continuously going to the gym with no breaks leads to fatigue, injury and weight gain.

Why weight gain? Your body eventually needs to rest. When you do take a day off, your body will desperately cling to the calories you take in and you’ll be set back for your next gym visit. Schedule rest days regularly. This also helps to keep you motivated to go to the gym — don’t risk burning yourself out and quitting altogether.

These are just three common myths you’ll find, especially online. When you’re researching information on fitness, always do your research and never trust the first article you see.

Listen to how this entrepreneur and creator – Stefan Grant used an unpleasant travel experience to create an industry game changer. The Founder of Noirbnb, Stefan paints the perfect picture of how his entrepreneurial instincts took over when he and his team decided to develop a new option that’s certain to thrive in the bnb industry. Don’t miss this one! Connect with Stefan on Twitter and check for the latest updates on Noirbnb at www.noirbnb.com 

Podcasting is one of my favorite forms of media nowadays. It’s easy to relax in a bath or run on the treadmill while listening to one of my favorite podcasts — they’re audio streams that are easy to consume and don’t require a lot of effort to understand, more often than not.

I love showing women empowering resources, and this post combines this love of empowerment with my love of podcasting. Here are four podcasts I think any female entrepreneur could appreciate.

The School of Self-Mastery – Adrienne Dorison

If you want an amazing podcast that covers a wide variety of topics that focus on entrepreneurship AND life as a woman, Adrienne Dorison’s podcast is the first you should check out. The School of Self-Mastery is about living life as an entrepreneur while also juggling life as a woman, from raising children to taking time out of your schedule to live a healthy life.

On the business side of things, Dorison often interviews successful business owners and utilizes her experiences and their info to teach important business lessons. These span many different fields, from marketing to financial responsibility.

Online Marketing Made Easy– Amy Porterfield

You typically listen to a podcast not just to learn about what someone is doing, but also how they’re doing it. This is especially true when it comes to podcasts about business. If I had one suggestion for podcasts that really go into the how of business success, Online Marketing Made Easy would top the list.

Amy Porterfield is a master at interviewing a guest who owns a business, and from there breaking down how they achieved their goals. She’s an expert at online marketing, frequently explaining how to monetize marketing strategies to her loyal listeners. Her advice is certainly worth paying attention to.

Profit. Power. Pursuit. – Tara Gentile

It’s always fascinating to learn exactly how a successful entrepreneur runs their business. There’s no one true path to success — we all make things happen in different ways! What makes me successful may not make you successful, and vice versa. No podcast explores this concept more aptly than Profit. Power. Pursuit.

Tara Gentile interviews a business owner on this podcast, then expertly breaks down their path to success. This means that a variety of business topics are covered based on the business in question. She’s also a professional speaker, so this topic is covered quite frequently.

SOB: Style of Business – Keetria

Time for a bit of shameless self-promotion. I’m all about female empowerment, and my own podcast (Style of Business: The Podcast) reflects this. While not every episode may focus on the topic of women in the world of business, many entrepreneurs I interview are women who have become highly successful in their field.

In general, my podcast topics include tips and tricks for entrepreneurial success, branding ideas and global viewpoints from the perspective of business owners around the world. We all have different ideas, methodologies and success stories, and I believe sharing these experiences with one another can lead us to our own, individual successes.

Take a listen, will you?

Branding is an important part of business marketing…but what are you supposed to do when you’re just starting out and don’t have the capital to put behind a killer branding campaign?

The good news is that you don’t have to be a business bigwig to create branding that really sings. The Internet has especially made branding easier than ever, and marketing yourself online is now cheap and easy thanks to these tools.

I can offer a million budget branding tips, but let’s start out with these four important pieces of advice:

  1. Newsletters

One thing I always say about branding is that the time you invest will always be more important than the money you spend. A consistent brand is one that works hard to create and maintain their image and personality. Sending out newsletters to an email list may not seem like the best way to brand in the short term, but the long term effects are certainly worth it.

You already have someone on the hook with your company. Even if they ignore a lot of your newsletters, it’s sometimes enough to regularly show up in a consumer’s inbox. This keeps you familiar to them, and those who do click regularly will get a taste of your consistent branding every time.

  1. Customer Insights

Sometimes the best branding opportunities don’t even come from you directly. Customers you have that are happy with your services will gladly say so, and this is something you can leverage.

Whether through user generated content or testimonials, customers showcase how they feel about your brand in a positive way. This kind of human feedback creates credibility among other potential customers online. A credible brand is a brand that succeeds because they’ve proven their value to not just the customers they already have, but to the world at large.

  1. Social Media

This should go without saying, but social media will always be your easiest and most inexpensive format for branding. Many associate market with social media more than they do branding, but brand identity and social media go hand in hand.

We can define marketing as purposefully trying to attract customers, while branding is something that is more subtle and subconscious. A brand is an identity, not an action – more aptly, it is the intention behind that action and what that action means. Things like personality and values can be communicated through interacting and posting on social media with a brand’s voice as the vehicle.

  1. Work with Amateur Freelancers

Freelance graphic designers just starting out are looking to fill up their resumes with work in order to get bigger clients and show their areas of expertise. If you’re looking for a logo or something related to web design, amateur freelancers are out there, ready and willing to give you decent work at an incredible price.

You don’t have to spend big to get a nice, simple logo produced. It’s also possible to refurbish your branding later on down the line when you have more capital to invest.

A great discussion about pursuing your talents and passions to help motivate others. Rashad “Bow Tie” Mills talks about how his business venture and desire to help the youth evolved into something bigger than he anticipated. The host of “Happy Hour” – Rashad uses his spirituality, passion, and purpose to give back. Don’t miss this one! Connect with Rashad on Facebook.