Enthusiasm and Entrepreneurship in Vietnam

    Enthusiasm and Entrepreneurship in Vietnam

    I’m sitting in the great hall of the Reunification Palace, the landmark building in former Saigon where the war officially ended when the North Vietnamese crashed through its gates declaring victory.

    Our tour guide — a short, slight-of-build, 20-something Vietnamese man — is explaining with great passion the history of Ho Chi Minh and the socialist party’s rise to power in modern-day Vietnam.   

    I listen to the guide’s well-rehearsed rhetoric as the bust of Ho Chi Minh looms large behind him and the blood-red, five-pointed star — the pentagram, symbol of communism — frames the bust’s background. I notice he’s been glancing down at something sporadically, which I assume to be his notes.

    Suddenly he stops midpoint in his discourse on America’s role in the war and holds up an iPad showing the famous and moving photo of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, who immolated himself. Ahh, his message may be of the socialist persuasion, but his note-taking technology is decidedly capitalist in nature.

    Without skipping a beat, my fellow American on the right says matter-of-factly, “Steve Job’s-style socialism,” while the gentlemen on my left weighs in with “It’s a different world.”

    They are both right. For the past several decades, Vietnam has been engaged in what they call Doi Moi, the name given to economic reforms, the goal of which is to create an economic system of capitalism, guided by the hand of socialism.

    As a result of Doi Moi, privately owned enterprises have been encouraged, and the Vietnamese’s enthusiastic embrace of entrepreneurship has played a significant role in the country’s 7.1 percent growth rate, in line just behind China and India.

    Enthusiasm. I’ve seen it in abundance over the past few days. Enthusiasm for service in the hotels and for the shoes and purses made by the family of the vendor — the relentless eagerness to make a better life for one’s self and one’s family. All this enthusiasm has led me to consider the state of small business marketing at home.

    As small business owners, we have become so overburdened and overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of our marketing to-do list and social media strategies, I think we sometimes forget that what should ultimately drive our small businesses is enthusiasm.

    • A passion to find a gap and fill it.  
    • A desire to make an opportunity where one did not exist previously.
    • The commitment to make manifest our good ideas.  

    I’m yanked back from my reflection on these things when the tour guide’s phone rings and he unceremoniously answers it and walks off to the side to have a discussion with whoever has called. When he’s done, he steps back to the front of the room and picks up just as passionately where he left off. A different world indeed.

    What role does enthusiasm play in your small business day-to-day? I would love to hear your comments.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    5 Financial Strategies To Free Your Time

    5 Financial Strategies To Free Your Time

    One upside to the economic downturn is that it gives you a good excuse to review your finances and find ways to save time managing them. The more you can simplify your finances, the more time you will gain to put into your other goals. In the new book Happy About An Extra Hour Every Day author Nicolas Soergel offers these five simple time saving financial strategies:

    1) Go for annual payments
    Instead of choosing the option of paying your bills quarterly, or bi-annually, see which of the companies you do business with will accept annual payments. Many companies offer additional discounts for annual payment schemes since it saves them processing time.

    2) Go with direct debit
    If you want to eliminate the risk of late payments and the related penalties and time hassles that come with them, switch to direct debit or automatic payment for the companies you trust. Bills to be paid to such vendors as the phone company, gas company etc. can be set up on a regular schedule, saving you the time of having to write the check. One caution, be sure to insure that you have the right to reject a wrong debit with your bank first before signing up for automatic payment.

    3) Create templates for most payables
    Internet banking is a great alternative since it reduces the amount of time you have to spend physically going to the bank. On additional advantage is that most banking software allows you to create and save templates for payments you make from time to time, as well as on a monthly basis. By setting up these templates – even for occasional payments, you avoid having to fill in all the fields from scratch.

    4) Consolidate your resources
    Do you have two or three savings accounts when you could easily reduce it to one? How about credit cards? Or even insurance with different companies, when one or two could do the trick? The more you consolidate the financial institutions your deal with, the less time you will spend managing them.

    5) Shift your spending towards your goals
    What better way to save time on your finances that to put your money to work towards you most important priorities and goals. The following process will help you to free up money from activities with a lower priority and focus spending on those things that mean the most to you.

    1. Take your bank and credit card statements for the last three months and list the payments for activities in three columns.
    • The first column is related to cost of living expenses such as rent, insurance, etc. Check how much of your income they represent and think of ways to reduce some of these items (change of provider, renegotiation, etc.).
    • The second column should reflect spending that is related to goals of lower priority.
    • The third column is for payments you have made for activities related to your most important goals in life.

    2. Add together the total for each column.

    3. As you review the columns it should become obvious where you have the potential to shift funds to high priority activities or to reduce overall spending in the low priority areas.

    As the saying goes “time is money” so make sure you are spending both of yours in the places that really matter.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    8 Steps To Cooling Down Your Anger

    8 Steps To Cooling Down Your Anger

    Slamming down the phone, yelling at coworkers, giving the computer (or copier) a good whack, shouting profanities, and throwing papers in frustration – psychologists may call this counterproductive behavior, but in more down-home terms it’s known as desk rage.

    Regardless of what name it is called, one thing seems clear: worldwide, workplace outbursts of anger are on the rise. One survey of 1500 workers by by Christine Pearson at UNC-Chapel Hill found that 12 percent of those surveyed had quit a job at some point to avoid nasty people at work and 45 percent were thinking about doing so. Moreover, more than half of those interviewed reported losing time at work worrying about other people’s rude behavior toward them.

    But what if you’re the one who tends to blow your top, lose your cool and in general become one ball of red heat to deal with. The experts say that even when your anger is justified, either suppressing it or expressing it in a destructive way is harmful.

    So the next time you feel your internal temperature begin to rise, try the eight steps outlined below to calm yourself back down.

    Step #1: Take a few deep breaths and count to ten.

    Step #2: Ask yourself: What are you feeling? What emotions are you are experiencing? Explore beyond the tip of the emotional iceberg – what are you feeling underneath?

    Step #3: Ask yourself: What is it about this situation – specifically – that is making you feel angry? What are the circumstances?

    Step #4: Ask yourself: What are you telling yourself about this person or situation? What trigger thoughts are you having?

    Step #5: Spend thirty seconds thinking of a less personal/more positive reason why the person may be acting this way (or why this situation is the way it is).

    Step #6: Substitute your crazy-making thoughts for calming ones. We asked our clients to tell us what calming thoughts they have found particularly useful in dealing with anger on the job. The answers we heard the most often included:

    “This will pass.”
    “Take this one step at a time.”
    “I am not going to be the victim of these circumstances.”
    “I am angry and I can take care of this.”
    “Focus on what I have to get done and do it.”
    “Where is the humor in this situation?”

    Step #7:
    Ask yourself: What outcome are you looking for? What do you want to have happen (or have stop happening) in the situation?

    Step #8: Ask yourself: What actions can you take to achieve your objective?
    Use problem-solving methods such as communication, negotiation, leverage, etc.

    Tune in next week when I will cover the other side of the coin – how to deal with the other person’s desk rage.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    How To Ditch Other People’s Negative Emotions

    How To Ditch Other People’s Negative Emotions

    Today was a four snooze alarm morning. Between the cold I caught from a fellow guest at a friend’s dinner, deadlines for clients and editors looming over my sleepy head, and the drained energy I felt from dealing with someone else’s negative emotion – I just wanted to crawl under the covers and eat chocolate. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

    As someone who is constantly striving to create a work-life balance and blend the commitments of work, family, friendships and creativity, I’m always interested in the latest and greatest on the psychology, biology and sociology front as it relates to creating a well-rounded and emotionally centered life.

    In her new book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Harmony Books, 2009) bestselling author Judith Orloff, MD, offers some great new solutions for dealing with emotions in our hyper-tense world. So here’s a guest post from Dr. Orloff on her take on how to detach from other people’s negative emotions:

    First, ask yourself: Is the feeling mine or someone else’s? It could be both. If the emotion such as fear or anger is yours, gently confront what’s causing it on your own or with professional help. If not, try to pinpoint the obvious generator. For instance, if you’ve just watched a comedy, yet you came home from the movie theater feeling blue, you may have incorporated the depression of the people sitting beside you; in close proximity, energy fields overlap. The same is true with going to a mall or packed concert.

    When possible, distance yourself from the suspected source. Move at least twenty feet away; see if you feel relief. Don’t err on the side of not wanting to offend strangers. In a public place, don’t hesitate to change seats if you feel a sense of depression imposing on you.

    For a few minutes, center yourself by concentrating on your breath: This connects you to your essence. Keep exhaling negativity, inhaling calm. This helps to ground yourself and purify fear or other difficult emotions Visualize negativity as gray fog lifting from your body, and hope as golden light entering. This can yield quick results.

    Negative emotions
    such as fear frequently lodge in your emotional center at the solar plexus. Place your palm there as you keep sending loving-kindness to that area to flush stress out. For longstanding depression or anxiety, use this method daily to strengthen this center. It’s comforting and builds a sense of safety and optimism.

    Shield yourself. A handy form of protection many people use, including healers with trying patients, involves visualizing an envelope of white light (or any color you feel imparts power) around your entire body. Think of it as a shield that blocks out negativity or physical discomfort but allows what’s positive to filter in.

    Look for positive people and situations.
    Call a friend who sees the good in others. Spend time with a colleague who affirms the bright side of things. Listen to hopeful people. Hear the faith they have in themselves and others. Also relish hopeful words, songs, and art forms. Hope is contagious and it will lift your mood.

    Keep practicing these strategies. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you’re on emotional overload. With strategies to cope, you can have quicker retorts to stressful situations, feel safer, and your sensitivities can blossom.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    How Time Literate Are You? Take This Quick Quiz

    How Time Literate Are You? Take This Quick Quiz

    In 1956, George Miller wrote a paper entitled, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.” He had discovered that people can only focus on five to nine things at a time – anything beyond this has to be held in the unconscious mind. For most of us, it would be a dream come true if we only had to focus on five – or even nine – things.

    Unfortunately, in today’s work environment we often have too much to do, in too little time, with too little energy and focus. One study by the Families and Work Institute found that a full third of Americans are overworked; more than 50 percent of those surveyed said they are either handling too many tasks at the same time or are frequently interrupted during the workday – or both. In short, we are overloaded. Is it any wonder, then, that we have trouble managing our offices, time and projects in a way that feels sufficient?

    In the face of these time traps, it’s critical that we learn how to beat back the bad habits of procrastination, multitasking, and distraction and become more time literate. Are you a time-tamer or a time-waster? To get an idea of your current level of time literacy, answer the following questions using the guide below:

    1 = Almost Never
    2 = Once in a while
    3 = Frequently
    4 = All the time

    1. I create a daily to-do list and then prioritize it. ______

    2. Whenever possible I do my most important tasks early in the day. _____

    3. The state of my desktop inspires me to get work done. _____

    4. I have specific, written goals, for my business and personal life. ____

    5. I arrive at meetings on time and prepared. ____

    6. I delegate whatever I can. ____

    7. My in-basket is under control and I process the work in it regularly. ____

    8. I close my office door or take other measures to prevent interruptions when I need to focus. ____

    9. I know when and how to say no to other people’s requests. ____

    10. I meet my project deadlines. ____

    11. I can find any information I need within 5 minutes. ____

    12. I spend less than 30 percent of my day putting out fires. ____

    13. I keep my email inbox organized and up-to-date. ____

    14. My office files are neat, organized and up-to-date. ____

    15. I tackle difficult or unpleasant tasks without delay. ____

    Total Score: ____

    50 – 60: Congratulations you are a time literacy superstar! You obviously understand the core principles of time literacy and have been able to translate them into everyday actions. To move to the next level, choose one area above that you would like to enhance and find a book, teleclass, online workshop, seminar, coach or mentor that can help you further develop that skill.

    35 – 49: You have a good grasp on your time, but are losing energy and focus because of a few bad time habits. Review the questions above and focus your attention on the areas where you scored a 2 or lower. Consider reaching out to a friend, family member or someone you work with to help you identify when you are caught in non-productive time behaviors.

    15 – 34: Your time literacy could use some education. You may be experiencing procrastination, overwhelm or burnout due to poor time management. Pick one item from the list above and work on it daily, until your score in that area has increased by one point.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    What Pez Candy And Time Management Have In Common

    What Pez Candy And Time Management Have In Common

    When I was a kid, one of my favorite candies was Pez. The bottom half of the dispenser was designed in the shape of a cigarette lighter, and the top was the head of some famous cartoon character. With one swift motion, I would pull back the Donald Duck, Goofy or Mickey Mouse top and out would pop a single, small sliver of satisfyingly tart and sweet candy. I would go on like this, dispensing one treat at a time, until the entire package was used up.

    If you’re wondering what this childhood trip down memory lane has to do with today’s time management, I’ll tell you — but first, you have to sit through one more candy metaphor.

    Most people approach their to-do list like it’s a box of chocolates (and not in the somewhat endearing Forest Gump “lefe is leke a bax o’ chokolates” way.) No, we take a small nibble out of a caramel cream and dump the remains back in the box or grab a bite of a dark chocolate-covered cherry and then discard it to its holding place next to the English toffee.

    Likewise, we tend to take little nibbles on projects, bites of our to-do list and leave tasks half eaten. For the most part, this leaves us wholly incomplete and unsatisfied. Stuffed to the gills with action, but hungry for accomplishment.

    I think we should all take a productivity lesson from PEZ candy and promise to start doing one thing at a time. No distractions, no multitasking, just focus — pure, old-fashioned, unadulterated focus. To increase yours, try these focus-building behaviors.

    Warning: You may have heard or read a version of these before. They’re classics in the world of time management, and for those of us who peddle this stuff, we’ve all written about them, spoken about them, recommended them and sometimes even followed them — for years. They are, in many ways, common sense. But you know the expression about common sense not being so common? Oh, and if you need a visual to remind you, order a PEZ dispenser.

    1. Keep a Brain Drain list on hand: One study by George Miller found that people can only hold five to nine things in their mind at a time; the rest goes into the unconscious mind. To keep your mental real estate tidy, as soon as a thought, idea, task or to-do enters you brain — threatening to strip you of your focus — write it down for processing at a later date.

    2. Tackle the hard things early in the morning: One survey by Accountemps found that 69 percent of financial executives polled said that their most productive time for meeting with potential job applicants was between 9 and 11 a.m. Why? Because most people have more energy available at the beginning of the day than at the end. Instead of frittering away your morning surfing the net for fabulous finds, or processing “C” priority emails, put that time to work on your “A” priority items.

    In fact, if your are so inclined, I’d love it if you would take just a minute (literally) and fill out a poll on What Is Your Most Productive Time Of Day?

    3. Work on increasing your attention span. The next time you sit down to do a specific task that requires your full focus, set a timer for five minutes. No matter what, don’t allow yourself to be pulled away. Yes, your brain will scream for mercy. Yes, you will think you are going to die of boredom and yes, five minutes is both a lot longer and a lot shorter than you realize.

    When you can focus on the task uninterrupted for five minutes, try 10, then 15, then 20. If you can get up to 45 minutes of totally focused time — no itches and urges to answer your cell phone, check your e-mail, Facebook a friend or twitter your latest thought — you are Zen master and are hereby absolved from ever having to read another time management book. Not really, but you will be among the few and the proud.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    New Year Resolutions Week

    New Year Resolutions Week

    The last few days of the year (the procrastinators among us hold off until the first week of January) is the time when most people sit down to formulate their New Year’s Resolutions. I think the reason this beginning-of-year activity is so popular is that we are a nation that loves the “do over.”

    We fancy the idea that in one relatively short time span (a week, a day) we can raise the magic wand of declaration and erase the past year’s mistakes with its missed opportunities and make a fresh start. It’s the kind of feeling we get from putting on a clean white shirt, or opening a new box of Kleenex, or unwrapping an unused sponge for the sink and throwing away the grimy old one.

    As we roll into January, I have been reflecting (in between shopping, cooking, planning, and partying) on my past resolutions of 2008 and my goals for 2009. To start, I sat down yesterday to review the goals I had set for myself with such good cheer and optimism in that first week of January, a mere twelve months ago.

    Perhaps it’s twenty-five plus years as a management consultant, or all that time I have spent leading time management courses, or just my natural obsessively organized personality, but I always write down my goals and list them under subheadings by category – body/health, marriage, finance, family, creativity, etc.

    The interesting thing is that the goals from the current year often bear a striking similarity to the goals from the previous one. The same desires appear, year after year, like flowers that bloom every spring from long-dormant bulbs. They have been hibernating, storing energy, and every year around this time are ready to spring forth with a fresh bunch of flowers, yet are still part of the same old plant.

    Among other things, my yearly blooms always seem to include fitness, career, money and love. Doesn’t everyone’s? The fact that each fresh crop of resolutions is a slight variation on the same theme does not stop me from making them. I keep coming back for more.

    Looking back, it’s actually been a pretty good year. I’ve achieved, if not all my goals, enough progress on them to make me feel like a productive member of my own life. I did write that series of books, sing in that play and start that exercise program.

    As for the goals that I did not achieve in 2008, I have come to realize that some (i.e., run a marathon) were just good ideas, never meant to move beyond the page to the real world of action. To others, I gave my best shot (lose twenty pounds) and fell short (I lost nine).

    Thankfully, this coming week is officially New Year’s Resolution week, so I can declare a “do over,” wipe the slate clean, and start again, bringing a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to my “new” goals, even if they happen to look an awful lot like the old ones.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    Five Easy Steps To E-Mail Organization

    Five Easy Steps To E-Mail Organization

    Welcome to the second post in the “Simplify Your Online Life” series. For those of you who jumped on the bandwagon last week, congratulations.

    This week, we move onto a topic near and dear to everyone’s heart: e-mail organization. To establish an e-mail filing system that allows you to process and access past e-mails quickly and easily, use one or more of the following methods to archive and prioritize messages:

    #1. File by client name. If your work is account based, with lots of different clients, it makes sense to set up a folder for each customer; for example: Client A, B, C and D. However, if you have several hundred clients to keep tabs on, create general folders that divide the clients into broader categories; for example: Engineering clients, retail clients, banking clients, healthcare clients etc.

    #2. File by product or service. If your work has more to do with products and services than clients, make general folders for all the main product and service categories that you deal with. For example, the products folders might be labeled: Flab fighter, joyful gerbil, kitty crave, turtle polish and catnip sauce. Examples of service folders might be: Consulting, speaking, training, writing etc. Within these folders, place all related topics en masse, or with subfolders for each product or service category.

    #3. File by project. Some people prefer a project-based filing system, in which folders are created for each of the major projects you are working on. For example: New web site, quarterly sales, annual picnic, family reunion etc.

    Within each folder, subfolders can be created to store messages that relate to one area of the project; for example, under the project “new web site,” you might have the following subfolders: Design, ideas, notes, input, management and webmaster.

    #4. Take advantage of automated filing. Microsoft Outlook, Entourage and Apple Mail have features for automatically assigning e-mails — from specific senders or about certain subjects — to pre-assigned folders. E-mails then show up in your main inbox list, but are also filed under their specified topic.

    #5.Finally, when new e-mails come in, don’t let them linger in your mailbox, hoping they will read themselves. For every incoming message you have, take at least one of the following four actions:

    •Reply immediately whenever possible
    •Delete the message
    •Forward when appropriate
    •File the message in the appropriate folder

    Warning! Don’t fall into the trap of using “ignore” as an option for dealing with incoming messages. Anything you are trying to ignore becomes a loose end and a big energy drain.

    If you’re on a roll with this “Simplify Your Online Life” series of posts, don’t stop now. Set aside 15 minutes each day this coming week (first thing in the morning works well) to work on organizing your e-mail. Please leave me a comment at the bottom of this article to let me know how it’s going.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.