5 Ways to Grind Procrastination Into the Dust

October 28th, 2011

There are no words.

Procrastination. It’s the black-eyed monster that none of us can actually manage to avoid. The bump in the road gleefully looking for new victims. The Toon Town cement wall that hops around at will, just waiting for unsuspecting passersby.

The question isn’t whether or not you procrastinate. I think all of us have put off a project or a paper or an errand indefinitely at some point or another. Since it usually isn’t nice enough to go away, however, we end up dealing with it sooner or later.

Usually at 2 am. When the project’s due by 9.

Deadlines are great motivators, but there’s something to be said for cutting the stress out of the equation. With that in mind, here are 5 quick and easy steps to kick procrastination to the curb!

1) Keep your to-do list short. My to-do list stretches across at least three sheets of paper on any given day. Staring at that too long is enough to give me hives…and the uncontrollable urge to crawl back into bed and play sick until it goes away. Break your list down into small, bite-sized pieces. Figure out what you HAVE to do today and put it on top. When you’re done with that, THEN start adding more to the list.

2) Learn to take projects in small bites. “Design, proof, print and distribute 50,000 flyers” isn’t a small bite. But that’s often what ends up written on the to-do list. Break it down. Do the writing, then the graphics (or vice versa). Then do your edits. View the proof. Print. Small bites help you get it done without feeling like it’s all about to crash down on your head!

3) Get started first thing in the morning. It’s easy to dawdle over that first cup of coffee. The sooner you get started, however, the sooner you’ll get in the groove and the sooner it’s going to get done. So dig in instead of spending an hour or two pondering over your email. As a matter of fact…

4) Decide when you’re going to be checking your messages. If it’s not time, don’t do it. Email, telephone and random people at the door can suck hours at a time. By the time you’re done, your day is gone and you haven’t scratched a thing off of your list.

5) Learn to say no. Procrastination happens most often when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Take a good, hard look at your project list. Is it made up of things you want/have to do, or is it full of things you just couldn’t say no to?

Trim your list, take it in small bites and learn to “just do it”. Procrastination will go flying out the window in no time.

4 Rules of Sharing Office Space

October 27th, 2011

Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a tower far far away from the quibbles of men, you’re going to have to share space. Specifically, you’re going to have to share your workspace. The one that you sit in, eight hours a day five  days a week, sometimes more. The one that, when you do the math, you spend more waking hours in than the space you pay the mortgage on each month.

If you’re going to share office space, you’d better be acquainted with the rules. Otherwise, it could all blow up in your face. And a hostile work environment isn’t something anybody wants. Ever.

With that in mind:

Rule #1: Keep the distractions to a minimum. There’s nothing wrong with swinging by a co-worker’s desk to say hey, shoot the breeze for a few minutes, etc. In fact, in a lot of offices it’s practically morning protocol if you don’t want to be the anti-social jerk that doesn’t get invited for drinks after-hours. Ever. Just because you’re free doesn’t mean everyone else is, however. Keep the distractions to a minimum.

Rule #2: Leave the stinky cheese at home. It used to drive me nuts when people would make popcorn, because the entire office would smell like those sweet little buttery kernels all…day…long. And popcorn actually smells good! If the scent of your lunch is going to waft off of your desk and hang around, it’s time to start re-thinking your dietary choices. At least while you’re at work.

Rule #3: A wise man doesn’t tell all he knows or sees. One of the major complaints people have about sharing office space is the fact that personal space and privacy go flying out the window. When you share a small space you’re going to be privy to personal squabbles, work related troubles and any and all manner of disturbing sights and sounds. Unless it’s something that absolutely has to be relayed (for example, a co-worker stealing company property) it’s best to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear until they come to you.

Rule #4: Music is good. Music no one can hear but you is better. Unless you have an office mate who enjoys working to your style of music, there’s a good chance it’s just another distraction-and we already talked about those. Pick up a good pair of headphones and you might be able to keep the peace.

What are your best tips for sharing office space?

Would You Rather Have a Life of “OH WELL” or “What Might Have Been”?

October 27th, 2011

Everyone has choices. Do you get up in the morning, or hit the snooze one more time? Do you eat the egg white omelet or the Pop Tart for breakfast?

Do you take chances, or do you play it safe and try to avoid thinking about “What Might Have Been”?

A friend of mine sent me this picture the other day:

If a picture says a 1,000 words, this one just gave the Gettysburg address. We live in a time when being a risk taker is a necessity. When pushing boundaries is a pre-requisite for success.

When doing the same thing day after day, month after month, year after year, isn’t enough to keep your head above water.

Vince Lombardi said that man cannot achieve perfection but, in the quest for perfection, he just might catch greatness. Life is an infinite well of possibilities. In today’s economy, business is an infinite well of possibilities.
A man launched an empire by selling a pet rock. Seriously. How many crazy ideas have you let pass you by because “It’s not what we do”? How far could you go if you took those words out of your vocabulary?

Are you living a life of “Oh Well”? The kind of life where you push yourself to the limit, take chances, accept crazy risks, and accept that there are no guarantees? Or are you playing it safe, looking wistfully at what might have been?

I know where I want to be.

Where Is Your Magic Cottage of Marketing Creativity?

October 7th, 2011

Have you paid a visit to Planet SARK lately?

No, that’s not a weird, random sci-fi reference, although those of you who’ve met me know that I’m guilty of those from time to time. Planet SARK is a place of growth, renewal, creativity, exhuberance and yes, at times, just plain silliness.

On Planet SARK, there is a magic cottage of creativity where the great and mighty SARK herself goes to bask. A small toolshed that has been remade into a home, an office and yes, a source of inspiration. It is a place free of stress, where dreams grow wild and free, unfettered by the rules of this insignificant thing we call reality.

Unfettered by reality. Know what we used to call people who dared to throw aside the yoke of reality and bravely wander out into a creative new world? Nut jobs. Loonies. Psychopaths.

Daydreamers. Scandalous.

Friday is swiftly coming to a close, with the weekend to follow, so I’m not going to harp on the awesomeness of rejecting this reality. Instead, I’m going to task all you savvy printing and marketing and dreaming people with a mission this weekend.

When you get home tonight, I want you to find your cottage of creativity. It doesn’t have to be an actual cottage, as SARK’s is. Maybe it’s an office. A room. A quiet corner. A spot under a shady tree where you grab your notebook or colored pencils and while away a quiet summer’s afternoon.

Find a spot where you can let reality stop dragging you down and see how far your creativity can soar.

Cornell University Uses 3-D Printing to Manufacture Human Ear

October 6th, 2011

Wondering what the latest and greatest is in the wide, wonderful world of 3-D printing? Check out what researchers at Cornell University (yes, the same people who figured out how to print actual chocolate desert) are doing with silicone these days.

Who, Exactly, Are You Trying to Be? Why Your Marketing Model Just Won’t Fit

October 5th, 2011

The expansion of cookie cutter “businesses in a box” that’s been sweeping the nation lately is bad for business, in more ways than one. Not only does it convince average citizens without a clue about what they’re doing that they can become overnight Internet millionaires, it leaves the average business owner staring around with a stupefied look on his face while he tries to figure out who, exactly, he should be modeling to build his business.

I don't understand. The kid down the street was riding this perfectly...

Every day I talk to business owners out there who have looked to one marketing guru or another for the guidelines to their success, only to fall short of the mark. The answer, to almost everyone I talk to, is the same. Their marketing plan was amazing, awesome, innovative…and designed for their business, not yours.

Go figure. The framework you’ve been using to design your entire marketing campaign isn’t guoing to work because, like those awesome custom boots you’ve been drooling over for months, it has the right ingredients but the wrong design for you.

So what are you going to do?

First, take a look at what you already have in front of you to figure out what’s working and what’s just sucking away your time. You probably already have most of the key ingredients you need to build your business. Don’t go throwing the baby away with the bath.

Second, look around for role models in your field who started with a business model similar to yours. If I want to look for ways to reach a printing audience, I’ll talk to fellow printers for ideas. Who are you talking to?

Third, don’t be afraid to innovate. Maybe there’s someone outside your niche who’s doing something awesome, but you tried doing it exactly like they did and it didn’t work. This is the part where I get to go, “Well, duh.” Take it. Twist it. Use it to reach your audience.

Stop trying to press your business into a marketing model that doesn’t fit. Instead, try and stretch your marketing model to fit your business and take some of the stress off for everybody.

4 Tips to Get People to Actually Open Your Direct Mail Marketing Pieces

October 4th, 2011

How much junk mail pops up in your mailbox each week?

I’m not talking about the carefully edited pile of mail your secretary lays on your desk every morning. Or the pile that mysteriously pops up from the mailroom the minute your back is turned.

I’m talking about the growing mountain of paper that you deal with every night when you get home, after the day is done, when you’re so tired you can barely see straight and your to-do list stretches long into the night.

It has long been my belief that the people who traditionally design direct mail campaigns are under the impression that people read their mail the way dedicated employees scan the morning blogs at work. They carefully wade through the muck to find the pearls buried beneath the swine.

What they forget is that when you’re a B2C company, consumers are looking at your direct mail on their own time. They’re not getting paid for this, so they’re under no obligation to give you the consideration you deserve.

Time to ramp up your A-game, ladies and gentlemen. Your direct mail marketing campaign isn’t doing you any good if it’s going straight into the recycling bin. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to make your direct mail pieces interesting enough to rescue them from a life of anonymity:

1)      Make them colorful. White envelopes fade into the background. Don’t be afraid to go with green, or yellow, or red-something that’s going to catch their eye and bring them in for a second look.


2)      Handwrite their address. Nobody takes the time for a personal touch anymore. My vehicular repair specialist always addresses their envelopes by hand. Not one of their mailings has ever gone unopened.


3)      Don’t buy into tricks like “highly confidential” or “open ASAP or else…”. This strategy worked great 15 years ago. Nowadays, if an envelope shows up marked highly confidential that didn’t come from my bank, my loan manager or my doctor’s office, it goes in the trash before another word gets read. I know I’m not the only one.


4)      Put your value proposition right on the front. “Annual Halloween Sale Starts 10/15!” “New Cars Are Finally Here!” Most people don’t launch a direct mail marketing campaign because they want to remind people they’re still alive. They’ve got something going on, something fresh, something new, and they want to make sure their customers know about it. Put that information front and center.


What are your best tips for getting your customers involved through direct mail marketing?

Are You Running a Democracy or a Dictatorship? The True Secret of Effective Leadership

October 3rd, 2011

Ever wonder why it doesn’t matter how hard you beg, bribe or threaten your employees, they just can’t seem to get the job done the way you want them to?

Earlier this week I stumbled across an interesting article on employee motivation. Okay, I can’t really say “stumbled”. More like, “Was beaten over the head with a sledgehammer.” My brain is still throbbing.

I’ll save you the full recap, although if you’ve got time you should take a minute to go check it out. That article hit on something we’ve all known for a very, very long time. That nobody gets up, gets dressed and puts their blood, sweat and tears into a project just for the dollar signs they’re going to see at the end of it.

Are Your Employees Committed to the Cause, or Just Slogging Away for a Paycheck?

Like most people, I worked minimum wage jobs to pay my way through college. Waiting tables. Flipping burgers. Stocking books. Selling calendars. Cleaning the lab at the student clinic.

With the notable exception of the winter I spent mindlessly watching the clock tick from a mall kiosk, most of these jobs had some redeeming feature. Each and every one of them also came equipped with the co-worker that just doesn’t care.

You know why they didn’t care? Because they felt like they had absolutely no investment whatsoever in whether or not the company they were working for kept their head above water. If the company closed its doors, they’d just go work somewhere else.

Obviously, this did wonders for their commitment to getting to work on time. And taking care of their customers. And actually getting the job done.

Running an Evil Dictatorship Never Works Out the Way You Think It Will

When you step up to the bat on a project with a vision, you want to make sure everything’s perfect. So you lay down the project parameters, micro-manage everybody’s work, harp on your employees to make sure that deadline’s reached…and wonder why your team scatters like cockroaches the minute you walk in the door.

Draw your team in when you’re working together. Encourage them to provide input and offer suggestions. Make them feel like it’s their project, not your project.

You’ll be amazed by how quickly it makes a difference.

Tuesday Smiles

August 16th, 2011

I’d like to say I have something witty and clever to start today with, but I don’t. Which means it’s definitely time for a sharp shot of Tuesday inspiration with this beautiful commercial featuring an ordinary young woman who used her talents and the love of her mentor to do something truly extraordinary.

Are You the Man with the (Marketing) Plan?

August 15th, 2011

School’s right around the corner. All that slacking you’ve done all summer? All those days you spent flying around by the seat of your pants? That’s done. Fin. Finis. Time to get back to living life by your to-do list and become the man with the plan.

If you’ve been coasting along on your old marketing plan until now, it’s time to toss that out the window and start thinking about what you want out of your marketing campaign for…2012.

Do you have a plan for 2012? Well, what are you waiting for?

Yep, that’s right. If the wheels aren’t already turning, it’s time to sit down with a pen and paper (or your Blackberry, or iPhone, or favorite iPad app, or whatever you’re doing your scheming on these days) and start making the preliminary sketches for where you want your business to go in 2012.

Making a Marketing Plan

Creating a marketing plan is a whole different ballgame from crafting your business plan. It’s easy to decide where you want your business to go, not nearly as easy to figure out how you’re going to get it from here to there.

Your marketing people should have a good handle on what’s next in this season’s lineup, but if you’re running a one man show (or just getting that show off the ground) here’s some food for thought:

1)      Who are you really marketing to this year? Do you have one key group of consumers? Two? Three? Don’t make the mistake of thinking all target groups are created equal.

2)      What new products and events do you have lined up for the coming year? Planning product launches now will save you acres of migraines later.

3)      Where do you plan to promote? It’s a no-brainer, I realize but it’s still well worth pointing out that B2B marketing and B2C marketing are completely different ballgames in the marketing arena-not just where you promote, but how.

A quick side note. Don’t prep your promo materials until you know EXACTLY who’s going to be looking at them. The amount of material I read geared toward professionals that sounds like it was written for my five year old, and vice versa, is enough to make me want to spend an hour or two banging my head into the wall.

4)      What specials/promos do you plan to run in the coming year? This is HUGE in terms of your marketing plan, so sit down and figure that out now while you have the chance.

The new year’s a whole lot closer than you think it is. What are you doing to make sure you’re ready for it all?

Stay in the now with East Ridge Printing

twitter facebook blog