Inbox zero – miracles do happen

About five years ago I told a good friend that is in the design industry (like me) that I had cleaned out my email inbox to zero.  His reply was something to the effect of “Well, that’s probably not a good thing. If it is close to zero, that means business is not good.”  It dawned on me today as I was working through getting my inbox down to zero, something that hasn’t happened in probably two years, that I took his message to heart.  He meant well, and I do understand what he was saying.  He was just wrong.  A full inbox doesn’t equal clients necessarily.  For me, it has been a constant reminder that there is always something else that I haven’t done yet (like any of us need reminders that there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS something else to be done if you own a business).  My inbox had become an unofficial to do list even though I already had a to do list.  And the older emails in my inbox became older and older and didn’t get done.

Well today….I did it.  How do you like them apples?

Screenshot 2016-08-10 19.09.10

Don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t just go through and delete out my inbox although I’ve been tempted to many times.  No instead, as I mentioned in my previous email, I’ve been on a quest toward improved productivity and overall working smarter.  My inbox was a huge nemesis for me.  I ended up watching a video by Scott Beebe on how to get a hold of your inbox, took notes and began my journey toward inbox zero (not a paid endorsement, just a very helpful tool…thanks Scott).  Took about 1.5 hours to clear out the 200 emails in my inbox…I was a “distributing” machine.  I say distributing because that is one of the mindset shifts that needs to happen: moving from a captive where you are “owned” by your inbox to where you are a distributor, owning your email and moving it to where it needs to go.  200 was my average for my inbox on most days even after clearing out a bunch of items.  How about you?  What is your current inbox number at?  Do you struggle like I do with your inbox or is it no big deal for you?  Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe For Crazy

recipe_for_crazy_trucker_hat-r7f682c549df547cbae0eb351a98b87fb_v9wfy_8byvr_512One of my focuses over the last several months has been focusing on learning about and leveraging systems that will increase my focus, productivity and satisfaction while infusing a more healthy work/life balance into my life.  I want to work smarter, grow my businesses while increasing the amount of fulfillment I get from my work.  So, I’ve added some new categories to my blog (productivity and systems) and plan to loosely give updates on thoughts, tools and processes that I come across during this journey. I plan to make a constant discipline of evaluating what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and asking, “Is there a better way?”

Right now I’m looking at how I handle email, how often I check it and developing better ways to work with it.  I’ve had some days where I’ve worked in response to the activity of my inbox and that alone.  That is a recipe for crazy.  I’m done with that. So, time to do that better.  If you have an email best practices, would love to hear them. I’m reading and implementing some as I read more and will let you know those that I finally land on. I would also love to be able to hand off much of my inbox to an assistant at some point, but I have yet to find a setup that I’m comfortable with that I feel would work for everyone.  That will come later on.

I’m also looking at my daily prioritized task list (Download Here).  I’ve used this for about 3 years now.  The problem? It says daily, but it has about 20 lines on each day, and I can easily fill up those lines with tasks.  The problem is that unless I plan on working around the clock, there is no way that I will be able to accomplish those in a day. That also is a recipe for crazy. This morning, I was needing to print out some more copies of this Daily Prioritized Task, and I paused.  I thought, “I wonder if there is a better way to do this and removed some of the stress I consistently feel from this?” Really, this list would more appropriately be for me a weekly task list.  I’ve often thought that if I could at accomplish these within a period of 2 to 3 days, THAT would be a successful week. So…I’m experimenting. I’ve been taking the items from my list and putting them on my calendar in time slots for about a week.  That helps carve out time, and it helps me focus as I know there is a time slot for the rest of the items on the list. That has helped.  Now my plan is to shift from a daily to a weekly task list in the way it is labeled and the way I view it.  If I get done with my weekly task list in a few days?  GREAT!  I’ll celebrate and then develop another for the week.  It’s an experiment so we will see.

Other items I’ve addressed and implementing systems for included using a scheduling software that has a link to a calendar for set times/days during the week when I’m available for phone calls and/or meetings. People could use the link to schedule a time that might be convenient, and my assistant could use this and schedule appointments easier for me. Also, I’m shifting toward limiting my Skype usage, staying off of social media during work hours except if it is for a client, and I have unsubscribed from a bunch of email subscriptions using and have bundled the ones I wanted to keep into a daily digest which is awesome times 50.  I’m also looking at a ticketing system for clients that we perform routine website updates and support items for.  More to come.  If you have hacks, best practices or tools to share, please feel free to leave a comment below.

UPDATE: I’ve decided to experiment on checking my email 3 times per day for 1 week: 8:30 am, 11:30 am and 4:00 PM for one week.  Since most people check their email more than 20 times per day (crazy right), I’ll see how this works.

Setting Goals

Setting goals has not been one of my strengths.  Even though study after study seems to indicate that those that do are more successful and achieve more than those that don’t, I have struggled every year to set goals.  I wondered why that was so difficult for me.  It came down to this:

I was overthinking it WAY too much and making it much more complicated than it has to be.

In my mind, I was thinking that I had to have the right formula, a certain number of actions points, perfectly formatted and equally bulleted actions steps, etc.  I would often wonder what should I set goals for, and what categories should they be listed under.  See what I mean.  Overthinking.

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By Faith

Hello…Hello….is this thing on?…

Well, I had seriously considered shutting down the blog, but I held off just because I thought there might be a remote chance I would want to blog later on.  This has always been a place where I’ve shared thoughts and ideas that are swimming in my head. So although it’s been a while, here’s the latest.

leap-of-faithThis morning I was reading through Hebrews 11:8-16.  Some would call it the “Hall of Faith” because it goes through several lives of people in the Bible that lived and took action “by faith”.  In fact, that phrase “by faith” appears 4 times in this short passage.

You can read the passage for yourself.  While I’m always struck by the amount of faith each person had and acted on, in my mind, Abraham’s always stands out: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (v8)

That is incredible faith.  It’s not just incredible, it’s dangerous.  It’s the kind of faith that would make some look at you like you’ve lost it.  Even other believers in Christ will think that of you.  It’s not “prudent”. It’s not “wise”.  I’m not throwing out wisdom and prudence.  It’s just that so often faith seems to go against the grain of what would be deemed as wisdom and prudence.

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aj mind dump

Here’s an update on things from the world of Jones:

  • I’m about to enter my 4th full week of being on my own in my businesses.  I’ve had several people ask me “how’s it going?”  It’s going well as we’re still adapting to the new setup.  I’ve been spending the first several weeks beginning to network more and do a lot of laying the ground work for business down the road.  Still a ways to go on that, but I think that it will pay off.  Not huge on the cash flow end of things but a necessity in building for the future.
  • The rest of the time has been spent on finishing up on some existing projects that got put on the backburner because of the time demands in transitioning out of Cedar Creek.  In other words, I’ve been playing catchup on those items.  We’ve wrapped several projects this week so I see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I’ll be posting about those here and on my facebook/twitter accounts.
  • We’re also starting to piece together our video production equipment for shoots.  The next step after that is to develop some script ideas and begin to move them from ideas to execution.
  • I know it’s early on and there will be times where it will be difficult, but as I’ve been working for myself over the past month, I have no doubt that we made the right decision.  I’ve been putting in a lot of hours (some late), trying to network more, dreaming a lot, working to meet deadlines….. and I’m really loving what I’m doing.  It’s been a long time since I could honestly say that.  I’m very thankful for that.
  • The housing market in Aiken, like most places I believe, is REALLY slow right now so not a whole lot of action on our home selling.  October offers a little more promise so we’ll see how things go.  Really looking forward to selling our home and moving into that next phase of our ongoing transition 🙂
  • Totally random: we’ve been doing the song below at church for the last month or so.  Has really spoken to me and where we are.  Good stuff.
  • Excited for the days ahead.


the fear of failure

As I’ve been thinking, praying and living through the last 9 or so months of making the jump to be full time self employed, probably the biggest hurdle in my mind is fear of failure.  It’s the mental exercise you and I do where you go through in your mind all of the “what if” scenarios.  What if we can’t pay the mortgage?  What if we don’t have food?  What if nobody likes this post I’m typing? What if, what if, WHAT IF?!  As I look at my two kids’ faces, this reality of “What if” gets real.  This fear can become paralyzing, but it’s not isolated to those wanting to make career moves.

We face this fear in all areas of our lives.  There have been times as a creative that I’ve been afraid to try a new design or to bring an idea to fruition.  What if others don’t like it?  Fear.  It fleshes itself out in all areas of our lives.  What if I get honest with people about some things I’ve been dealing with? Fear.  What if put myself out there for someone and am rejected? Fear. What if no one notices what I do and it seems to matter to no one? Fear.

So how do you move past that fear barrier?  How do you deal with the reality of fear of failure? Continue reading