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Op/Ed

Treat your business like your first born child — you owe it to yourself

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Researching endlessly before opening, vetting every idea and method, and constantly refining those methods shouldn’t just be practiced by new moms with their first child but also business owners with their businesses.

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Let’s start with a story. A friend of a friend has the Child Madness. You know what I’m talking about. She’s expecting, and she’s read or is reading every word ever written on the production and maintenance of very small people.

She’s got every child-rearing trend on lock, annotated with ten arguments for it and twelve against. She may be knitting things. And of course – to judge by my own online experience, I’m pretty sure this is federal law for parents-to-be – she’s Facebooking every last bit of the above.

Quite right, too. Having a child is a Big Deal. I don’t even have one of the little creatures. All’s I got is a considerably littler sister. It’s not even the same thing, and real talk: she’s got a great boyfriend (which, being the protective older brother, translates to “boyfriend I don’t want to tase unconscious and FedEx to space”), a job that probably paid more last month than I’ve made this year, and I still spend a solid 51% of my RWM – that’s Random Worrying Memory – on her wellbeing. Raising that to the level proper for a person you created? I can’t imagine. Literally. Wigging out is called for.

Thing is, FoaF is also a business owner. Roundabout the same time she was burning through baby books and cranking classical for her lower abdomen, she asked the friend we had in common how to put together a P&L sheet. She’d been in business ten years. Not long after, our friend asked what email client her business used. They do 40% of their business through email. She didn’t know. What?

I’m not equating the value of a child to a business. To my knowledge, I’m not a sociopath. But it did get me thinking, and I spotted a lesson.

Why not worry about one the way you worry about the other?

Is there a better example, anywhere, of all-out borderline compulsive prep work than expecting parents? Seriously, spend five minutes on Facebook. I’ll wait. Books and classes, diet and exercise, and it all starts on day one, part of the process the moment the appropriate thing turns blue. “Eh, I’ll wing it” ain’t exactly best practice. Say what you want about the Child Madness: nobody cares more about the creation of something new.

So if you want to build something, take the tip. Next time, instead of sighing or snickering when an unduly detailed update on somebody’s Child Countdown flits across the Internet, follow their lead. I mean, not Mozart and yoga, unless that’s your thing. But read up. Take classes. Get with people who have already done what you’re doing. And – this is the important bit – do all of that before you start.

You won’t know what’s coming until it’s come. Such is the nature of creation. Ask a parent, or an artist, or an entrepreneur. But ask them again and they’ll tell you, preparing the ground and learning best practices from people who have been where you are is your best shot at coming through the unknown with a happy result.

>When you want to build, give yourself a little Child Madness. It works.

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Op/Ed

The simultaneous flop and success of house flippers in COVID-19

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) House flipping is flopping this quarter… but house flippers are still filling their pockets! What’s going on?

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Older, beat up interior of a house ready for house flippers to start work.

‘Well, now that all my pleasant distractions are gone, I’ll definitely get to the grinding, difficult projects I’ve been putting off’, said… Well, everyone middle class and up during this pandemic.

It’s not a bad thing to be an optimist (or so I’m told). Something something, opportunity and crisis are the same in Chinese, except Chinese is not technically an actual language, and also
that’s not even true, and also diminishing returns on motivation are to be expected considering he general rise in stress amongst us 99%ers during these plague-ridden days.

Unsurprisingly, that means we’ve been seeing a drop in people willing to tread through the process of buying, oversee the remodeling of, and selling a house for profit. Considering I could
barely will myself to rearrange my bedroom after my nightly round of anti-maskcne treatments, I’m not too shocked.

COVID-19 proper and the layoffs surrounding the virus’ spread are hitting manual laborers hardest, increasingly leaving would-be flippers without the skilled professionals they need to realize their before/after visions, and idealists further down the financial ladder are reconsidering their investment priorities in the face of their own challenges.

As much sense as this makes, it is always nice to have trustworthy data to back up my ramblings. Check out the numbers from ATTOM Data Solutions:

US Fix and Flop Finance Trends

US Home Flipping Profit Trends

US Home Flipping Trends

What did surprise me about the latest trends though is that while numerically, fewer flips are occurring, monetarily fewer flips’ funds are filling fortunes faster! In other, less tongue-twisty words, the houses that are being flipped successfully are bringing even more profit. “Home-flipping again generated higher profits on less transactions across the United States in the third quarter of 2020 as investors continued to make more money on a declining number of deals,” Chief Product Officer, Todd Teta, of ATTOM Data Solutions lets us know.

Best guess here (or my guess, which is really the same thing) is that more experienced house flippers with COVID-proofed access to more resources—networks, funds, quality libations, et cetera have leveraged said advantages and raised the average accordingly. Kudos! The bulk of six-figure profits settled in California and the Pacific Northwest, while Texan metropolises and cities in the South saw lower profits in the teens, and as a Texan myself, I’m slightly saddened… But winning is winning no matter the margin.

What is it we can learn here? I say the lesson is the same we’ve been seeing since we first decided a fistful of gold was better than a fist full of berries—those who already have better tend to do better. Whether my musings hold true still remains to be measured, but no matter what the data shows, to all house flippers, breaker trippers, and hot toddy sippers out there… Best of luck, and I salute you.

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Op/Ed

5 secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?

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distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions

    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions

    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.
  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items

    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.“There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.
  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation

    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.
  5. Optimize Your Workspace

    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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Op/Ed

Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.

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too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: Being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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