This is a little mish-mash of thoughts about what I started in 2019 and want to keep going in 2020.
Weekly Tasks to Stay Well-Rounded
One of the great things about owning your own business is the freedom it provides in terms of allowing you the freedom to choose your own direction. However, the flip side of this is that it can be very easy to get distracted chasing after any number of goals. My number one job each day is to effectively prioritize the competing demands (and wishes) for how to use my time. One of my biggest challenges is balancing the desire to create solutions for my clients, and taking the time to read, study, and grow as a business owner, consultant, technologist, and human being. Without taking the time to do the latter, over time I know that I will become less effective at delivering great solutions.
I have talked at length about how I use the To Do app to manage each day. I have a list of tasks that reoccur each week, which hopefully help me stay on the well-rounded side. (Clearly, the list is aspirational, since this is my first blog post in months!)
- Technical deep dive (1 hour)
- Write a blog article
- Manage social media postings
- Read some in a book or article that is business- or tech-related
- Follow up with one dormant client
- Only eat fast food once a week (Ok, this is just for my waistline! I often grab a bite to eat to get out of the home office!)
What kind of things do you do each week (or day or month… or year) to stay well-rounded?
Time Tracking and Accounting
One of the most interesting changes I have encountered in the last year or two is the transition from project-based work to maintenance-based work. This means that, from an accounting and time-management perspective, I have had to purchase additional tools and put on my accountant hat a little more to keep track of how many hours have been purchased versus used. This year I purchased a subscription to TSheets, a time management tool that plugs into Quickbooks (which I use), to keep track of billable (and non-billable) hours. I have had to learn how to track the liability of pre-payment against time spent. I know this is boring to most people, but is one of those “fun” (and by “fun” I mean “not so fun”) parts of running your own business. Yes, I have learned how to be a part-time accountant!
Expanding My Network
I’m an introvert who likes people, so I may not come off as an introvert when you meet me. However, if I have to choose how to spend my time, I would rather sit in front of a computer than take the time to meet new people. As my business grows, though, I need to give myself that extra nudge to get “out there” and meet new clients as well as new people with whom I can partner to get the work done.
An interesting article in the Harvard Business Review (“Go Ahead and Skip That Networking Event“) states that at networking events, “Despite 95% of executives expressing a desire to meet new people, the average participant spent half of their time with the one-third of the people they already knew.” This is exactly my problem. It takes a lot of bravery on my part to summon up the courage to attend events alone and be outgoing when that is very much against my natural inclination. While I find a great source of support from my friends and colleagues in the Microsoft/Office 365/SharePoint space, I know it will be good for my business if I seek venues outside of my normal stomping grounds. In 2020, I’d like to take the time to connect with others outside my existing network.
Training and Certification
This month I am working toward becoming a certified trainer for Information Mapping. As a first step in the direction of “getting out there”, the Information Mapping method of writing technical documentation compliments my existing efforts to help clients become more organized, but gets my outside my normal Microsoft-centric focus. Plus, as a technical writer myself, I like the clarity this method provides for writing effective documentation.
I also hope to pass some basic Azure certifications. Although I have no desire to switch completely from Office 365 to Azure implementations, I find it’s always helpful to spend some time learning new things outside your normal day-to-day activities. I can’t even say the number of times I have appreciated being able to talk to clients intelligently about topics indirectly related to Office 365 because I took the time to do a little research. For me, studying for exams is a way of forcing myself to “read the dictionary”, so to speak. It gives me a plan for what to study each day, regarding topics I might not typically run across or learn about in my normal day-to-day activities.
Azure Information Protection, Labeling, and Security
While I used to shy away from security topics, (in-so-far as I saw those as falling on the networking/system admin side of the house, and not so related to my normal development/business analyst-type activities), I now see the importance of clients using the new AIP Unified Labeling for everything from applying retention policies to creating policies regarding the protection of information once it leaves Office 365 using Microsoft Cloud App Security (MCAS). This year I am going to up my security game and learn about these new amazing tools in place.
What About You?
What are some of your goals for 2020?