If you have too much work and not enough time, Episode #467 of the Marketing Mentor Podcast is for you
I had the BEST conversation with Jenny Blake, author of “Free Time: Lose the Busyness, Love Your Business,” about exactly how each of us is freeing more and more of our time to do what we do best – and you can too.
Actually it's Part 2 of a conversation that we started on her Free Time Podcast -- you can listen to that here.)
I'm especially loving her book because, as you’ve heard me say,
Marketing works when you do it.
And that usually means you get to have the best possible problem: too much work and not enough time.
That's when it's time to grow. And since it's your business, you get to decide exactly how to grow.
Jenny and I talked about how we are each growing our businesses to fit our ever-evolving lives.
We covered so much -- there's something for everyone:
- How to make the transition to passive income – what business model works?
- Why our mutual friend, Terri Trespicio, thought we would love each other (and how she introduced us)
- Jenny’s jam: Word of mouth networking
- Why tiny is good
- Momentum: my new formula for building momentum (and why it’s dangerous to lose momentum)
- What happens when Jenny isn’t consistent with her newsletter
- How each of us is kicking off 2023 and how we’re creating more and more free time,
- How to avoid sabotaging your own success while starting to delegate – all without messing up
- How to find good people to delegate to
- What is the Goldilocks team size for Jenny (and the “good people” she actually works with)!
- How to get everything out of your head so others can access it
- How to begin to know what kind of help you need
- 75 things you could delegate (free list in her free toolkit)
- What is “the delegation curve?”
- How to delegate the delegating process
- How Jenny made her coaching business scalable
- Should you hire senior people with a lot of experience or more junior people you’ll have to train?
- Why Jenny likes to pay her contractors abundantly
- Why so many people undercharge instead of asking for their “joyful rate”
- What Jenny has learned from working on her business with Jay Acunzo
- The importance of craft (and how that relates to my awesome yoga teacher)
- Getting rid of time confetti and mental clutter
- Why we both love audio and the importance of the sound of a podcaster’s voice
- One of the best compliments a podcaster can get
- Jenny’s take on The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul: thinking with other people and relationships (and how a podcast is a manifestation of this)
- Jenny’s favorite app to keep everything organized
- How to save yourself from yourself so you don’t undercharge (a.k.a. Jenny’s “Cyrano Strategy”)
- How “DNS” will help you make more free time for yourself
- Plus, lots of book recommendations
So listen here (or below) and scroll down to read the full transcript (with lots 'o links!)
Like this and want more? Listen to:
- “Are Your Clients Bringing Out the Best in You? Engineering the Evolution of Your Business” with Ilise Benun (on the Free Time Podcast)
- “Hire People Who Are Better Than You” with Terri Trespicio (on the Free Time Podcast)
- Engineering the Evolution of Your Business (#462 of the Marketing Mentor Podcast)
Here's what copywriter (and Marketing Mentor client), Chris Haviland, said about Free Time:
Read the full transcript of Episode #467
Hi, there, this is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor. And this is the podcast for you if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good.
I've been making some big changes to my business lately, engineering its evolution, as I explained in episode number 463 at the beginning of 2023. And one of those changes is freeing my time by finally delegating a lot of the things that don't need to be done by me. That's why I was thrilled to be introduced to Jenny Blake by our mutual friend, the awesome Terri Trespicio, one of my favorite podcast guests.
Jenny is the author of the award-winning “Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One.” But I'm especially loving her latest book, which is aptly called “Free Time: Lose the Busyness, Love Your Business” because, as you've heard me say, “marketing works when you do it.” And that usually means you begin to have the best possible problem: too much work and not enough time. If that's you, you'll love this one. So, listen and learn.
All right. Welcome, Jenny Blake, to the podcast.
Thank you so much, ilise. I'm delighted to be here.
Me too. And please introduce yourself.
My name is Jenny. I'm here because of our mutual, wonderful friend, Terri Trespicio. I run what I call a tiny media and IP licensing company. I'm the author of three books: “Life After College,” “Pivot” and “Free Time.” And I have two podcasts, which is my labor of love, the thing I love the most. One is called “Pivot with Jenny Blake” and the other one is called “Free Time.” So, those are my two main business skis that I base all the content and offerings around.
Nice. And it sounds like you're a bit of a content machine, like me.
It seems that way, yes. And I realize that I prefer less complexity. I like to create services that are scalable in that the time I spend can reach one to many. So, I actually stopped doing one-on-one coaching; that was my main source of income for 10 years, or at least my most consistent source of income. And then I also try to get most of the income streams to be semi-passive, operating on the background with monthly- or annually-recurring revenue, so that I am free to create and do shows like this with you on other people's podcasts and my own. Because, just over time, I've realized that's the favorite thing that I do.
Yeah, and that's definitely one of the things I want to talk about—is how to make that transition because a lot of people have dreams, sometimes I think pipe dreams, about passive income because it's not really passive. You and I both know that. There's a lot of activity that goes on behind the scenes. But there is a business model there that can work if you know how to put the pieces in place. So, I don't know, we may get to that too, but I have other questions I want to focus on today as well.
I thought I would start by reading the introduction that Terri sent to both of us just because it gives a sense of how she sees our connection and then we'll get into the questions.
So, she said, "Jenny: you know ilise benun's name because I invoked it on the podcast episode we did together. ilise has changed my life in many ways, and is a fount of wisdom and insight. And ilise: Jenny Blake, three-time author, business owner, lover of systems, is the woman I told you reminds me of you because you're both so incredibly practical and grounded and inspiring in the way you view work and its role."
We don't know how other people see us. And I just loved her perception and then the connection to you and the things we have in common.
Me too. I know. It's so joyful to get an introduction like that, and also to have someone that we both adore say, “You two have to meet.” And when that's coming from someone I know … because actually I'm quite introverted—I love alone time—I can never quite get enough of it.
I'm not very good at just proactively networking, anymore. Maybe at one time in my career. And I know you talk a lot about strategic networking. And I realize, and you've highlighted it by reading Terri's note, actually, word-of-mouth networking is my jam. That's what I prefer now of just friends making intros. And so I'm really happy to be here, and I love that we have a shared respect and mission around creating practical systems.
Yes. So this combination, also, of practical and inspirational, without the rah-rah-rah, is how I think about it.
Right. I've always thought that was so important because what good is inspiration if people don't do anything with it? And sometimes inspiration is so big and lofty, and it can get you really hyped up and excited, and then there's a block of, well, now what?
So, I love the fact that you, even at the end of every episode, offer “What's One Baby Step?” And I always joke, the personal development adage: “go big or go home,” doesn't always work. Sometimes you have to go tiny, as tiny as you can, and then build momentum from there.
Exactly. And actually, we're not even getting to my questions yet, but the word “momentum” is one of my magic words this year. And so I want to run by you the way I've been thinking about it and see what you think.
Because I do think that building momentum is essential. And losing momentum is very dangerous and difficult, so difficult, to get back. And so, I've come up with a bit of a formula about momentum, and there are two pieces to the formula.
One is: Showing up + Time = Momentum. And the idea that, if you show up consistently, over time, that's how you build momentum. There's nothing fabricated about it. It's just those two things. All you have to do, every day, is show up, do a little something. That's how you build momentum. What do you think of that?
I love it, I love it. I often say, “the long arc of creativity, or a thousand tiny iterations over time, that what you see in my business or yours … I've been building an online platform for 18 years now, since 2005. And I know you've been at it even longer and so–
Thirty-five years, actually.
Yeah, 35 years! And so, often, what people see when they might look at it now today, it's the result of thousands of tiny iterations and improvements over time.
And I can speak to what you shared about momentum—it is dangerous to lose it because inertia sets in. For me, I like to keep daily streaks, even if it's health and fitness related.
But when I stop something—I'm currently in the downswing of momentum/sliding into inertia with my newsletter. You've been so consistent with yours. I admire that so much. And mine, I lost the thread of it. For some reason, I needed a break. And this has happened to me before, it's not the first time.
I've had newsletters for 13 years and I know, again, you much longer. But here I am, I haven't sent a new missive out in over two months.
And every week that passes, my reminders still pop up that the newsletters are due. And I always delay it. Every time it feels bad. Every time I feel a little guilty, and it gets harder and harder and harder to want to get back into the saddle.
And maybe sometimes I think creatives do need to step back. My problem is sometimes I don't do that strategically. I don't say, "I'm going on a sabbatical now” or “I'm taking a break from my newsletters, I'll see you all in three months." Instead, I just ghost my community, which is not a good thing, and take the time. And I don't know how much time, so it's just that much harder to get back in the writing and sending mode.
It's true, it's true. And so, let's transition. We could talk about that for a long time, but let's transition to this idea. We're kicking off the year, it's February, and I know that we're both each carving out more and more free time for ourselves, and I'm curious to talk about what you're doing differently and also, while you're creating that free time, how do you grow with a tiny team in order to make the free time, and especially how do you find good people? And that's something that a lot of my clients struggle with. It's interesting. The thing about marketing, I'm sure you know this, is that, when you do it, it works. All you have to do is do it.
And when it works, then you start to get really busy and then you lose a lot of your free time, maybe all of your free time. Obviously, that's a good problem to have, the best problem to have. But it's very difficult to make the transition to delegating and handing things over. And I know that's one of the things that your book “Free Time” is all about, and I've already recommended it to several people who are loving it.
Yeah. So, I wanted to pick your brain a little bit about this problem that people have. They want to delegate. They want help. But there are obstacles; they can't find good people. That seems to be one of the biggest obstacles is, how do you find good people?
Yeah. Well, you sent this question to me in advance and the thing that first came to mind that I haven't ever articulated quite in this way is that every time I have found a great person, especially a support person within my business—and, in my business, nobody works full-time, including me—so, I do not want full-time employees. I don't want to be full-time. And the way I've always found them is through friends.
So, we talked about word-of-mouth networking. We've talked about word-of-mouth marketing a little bit, and we can talk about that all day too. But also word-of-mouth hiring. Because the times that I've just signed up for a service and have been assigned somebody to my business have actually ended up, most often, in semi disaster, just because they're not as vetted as they would otherwise be.
So, let's say with a virtual assistant or an executive assistant, if you get assigned somebody, there's just no saying it's a match. It’s like online dating or just dating in general. And the times where I've asked friends, where I say, "I'm looking for support. Do any of you have a VA or an EA with extra capacity who's looking to take on another client?" And every single time that someone has told me, a team member, they're happy to give their person more work or more clients if they have the capacity, and then they rave about them. And so, the person I'm working with now, my friend Dave worked with her for seven years before she took maternity leave. And as she was coming back online a few years later, she emailed him. He already had somebody new. He emailed his network, which I was lucky to be on that thread, and said, "Is anybody looking for an EA?"
And this was the answer to my prayers because I had been so frustrated throughout the year with false starts of bringing people on who just weren't a fit, or even, in my case, bringing too many people on.
There is a Goldilocks of team size for each business owner. And for me, I like something delightfully tiny. If there's no team, you're the bottleneck. But for me, when the team is too big, it grates against my personality. It's too much management, too many calls, too many meetings. I don't like it. So, I do like hiring outside specialists, like a podcast production team, where there's a manager managing them but they're not directly reporting to me.
And so, what's the ideal size of your tiny team?
Right now, it's the smallest it's ever been, but maybe creatively so. So, for example, I work with Bench for my bookkeeping. So, that's outsourced; they have their own systems.
I work with One Stone Creative for podcast production. So, it might be the case that four or five people touch every episode, but I'm not owning the life of an episode the way I used to when I would delegate to my own hodgepodge of contractors along the way. Someone for audio editing, someone for show notes, someone for messaging guests. And then, the main person who works with me most closely is the executive assistant that I mentioned. And, right now, that's it.
When I'm launching something like the book, I worked with an amazing book launch consultant, Courtney Kenney, and a fantastic social media team. Even though I'm not on social media, they took over all my accounts. Stephanie Houston is her name who ran that show and then she managed all of her team and subcontractors.
So, I have realized that, for myself, I like keeping a lean team by default.
And then, during launches or when I'm creating a new project, I might work with a brand strategy team. Together Agency is the one who did “Pivot” and “Free Time,” where it's a fixed engagement. And I'm also willing to invest not just money but my energy, and then there's a finish line, and then I can retreat and not have this big overhead to manage as a baseline.
We'll have to include all the names and links of all the good people that you mentioned.
I love giving people shout-outs because they do such great work and, like we said, word of mouth. I'm always looking for recommendations, too, so I like to plant these little serendipity seeds if it can make a new connection for people.
It's very meta. We're talking about how to get good help and we're going to link to a lot of the great help that Jenny has had. That's awesome.
And I think one of the other problems or obstacles or resistances, perhaps, is that when you're new to delegating, this was definitely the case for me, you really don't know what you're doing. Sometimes you don't even know what you could possibly get help with because everything is so organic and natural and it's all in your head. And so, I know you're all about getting everything out of your head and into a place where other people can access it. But how do you even begin to know what kind of help you need without it inevitably costing more and turning into scope creep, because I keep having that experience?
The first thing I recommend is observing in your business and your personal life what could you delegate? What are the tasks that drain you, that you don't like, that you're not good at? And just have a piece of paper by your desk. You can go analog or I have a Notion template in the Free Time Toolkit. Be an observer.
And the thing is, when somebody asks you: "Oh, what would you want to delegate in your business?" it's hard to come up with those answers right away, other than a few main things, the obvious ones.
But if you actually keep a list of items large and small, over the course of two weeks you're going to have a pretty long list. And in the Free Time Toolkit, I also have a list of 75 things I've delegated, just to give ideas.
Because there ends up being so much. And there's a delegation snowball that starts—that once you delegate the easy thing ... so, when I say “easy,” I mean, again, the ones you hate doing and that you dread and you procrastinate on and you're not good at—that's easy to delegate because the stakes are so low and you build trust. Then, that trust is encouraging, and it does take time. There's a delegation curve where it is more work in the beginning. But then, over time, you build trust together, and you can assign more and bigger things. And that's where it gets really rewarding.
And the other thing I would say, is when you bring someone on, it does not matter if it's for a three-month engagement or hopefully they're working with you for three years.
The first thing I say to them as they're onboarding is, “help us onboard the next You. So, whatever you find confusing, whatever you need to ask me about, please take notes and help improve our onboarding experience for the next person.”
So, basically, you don't have to do all the onboarding yourself?
And I also don't see what I don't see. We're so close to it. And the other thing I say is that I want you to imagine … so, to the new team member I'll say, "I want you to imagine that, in three months, we are going to entirely hand off this role to somebody else. And so as we work together, I want you to document everything. Create the guide, the go-to guide, for doing this work, that if somebody new came in, we could hand it off and they wouldn't have to ask us a single question."
And so, one of the work products of our first—It doesn't have to be first three months, it could be first six months—but it's very clear and explicit that a deliverable that you're going to help with is to ensure that someone could step in and do this role.
Because I've had friends who've invested quite a lot of money hiring, let's say, a salesperson. And the salesperson works for three months, six months, they don't generate any sales, they sever their relationship, sever ties, and there's nothing to show for it. So, this person might have invested thousands of dollars and now we don't even know what did the salesperson try, who did they contact, what worked, what didn't, what systems did they create, what questions did the owner answer for them? There's nothing. And that's what really hurts because you've invested the money, there's nothing to show for it. And now you're going to start from scratch with the next person, which can be very discouraging.
I love this idea, again, very meta, of delegating the delegating process to the person who's doing it.
And the other thing, I really wanted to come back to this. You mentioned that, sometimes, when our marketing is working, it's almost intimidating and we may subconsciously block ourselves from success.
There's a chapter in “Free Time” where I say, “Are you ready for your big break or would your business break?” And so I wanted to share something on this front, too. The better you get at marketing and, like you said, the more success you experience, that actually creates a lot of growing pains too because it's easy to become the bottleneck.
So, one of the biggest and best things I did in my business was bringing on a team of pivot coaches. They're subcontractors, they're not full-time. I did a rigorous training for the first batch. But when I brought on the second batch, I barely trained them at all because I looked for coaches who had at least 10 to 15 years of very solid corporate experience.
They were 10 to 15 years into their coaching business; they were people who were looking for new clients. They didn't need training. There was really no risk in bringing them on. And what that meant is that, when I'm out there doing keynote speeches, doing the podcasts, generating interest, I'm not the bottleneck when the demand comes in and then the demand doesn't need to just bounce off of my business.
So that's an example of a scalable service that I, as the owner, am no longer delivering. I could. It would allow me to take on just a few of my favorite type of clients or VIP clients. But, most importantly, we charge clients on a monthly recurring basis so there's that predictable revenue. And the coaches take 60% of the engagement and I keep 40% for operations and marketing.
And so that's one example. It is semi passive. It's not that much work to manage something like that, but it creates some ease and flow so that inbound interest, again, doesn't only rely on my time and energy to fulfill it.
And it sounds like, I hear two things. Hopefully I can hold them simultaneously in my head. One is, the second batch of coaches, you did something different—which was you looked to a different type of person to be a coach as opposed to someone you would have to train. And there's also always a debate about should you hire someone with a lot of experience who's going to cost more? Or someone more junior who is probably more in your budget but you're going to have to spend more time training them?
Yes. I know people who have an extended network of coaches that they pay $25 an hour. Mine end up, I think, taking home close to $300 an hour for the engagements they do with my business. And I like that because I don't ... see, again, this goes to my personality quirk of really not enjoying to manage people too closely at all. And the first group was very skilled so, don't get me wrong, they were really skilled. I think I was more precious about my method. I did six months because “Pivot” was brand new; the book hadn't even launched yet. So, we did a six-month series of trainings and triad coaching and partner coaching and observation and it was just really in-depth.
And then, by the time the second cohort of coaches came on, probably five years after “Pivot” launched, I just wasn't so precious about it anymore. I basically said, "Read the book. If it resonates, consider this tools in your coaching tool belt. You definitely don't have to coach your clients only according to the Pivot method. It's a tool in your tool belt. And I'm going to be here to help generate business for you."
And I always tell the coaches, too, if a client isn't joyful, don't take them on. Do not take anyone on, on my account. I want everybody involved to feel that it's joyful. And so, I like paying really abundantly. I ask contractors, no matter what service I'm hiring, even if it's a videographer, I like to ask: “What rate is joyful for you?”
And sometimes now, I actually will try to subcontract keynote speeches. So, if somebody wants a “Pivot” keynote and they can't afford my fee, I learned from a mentor to basically make my fee double what the subcontractors are, so that it's harder to hire me, in a way.
And so, I'll ask the subcontractors—people who are trained facilitators and who could deliver “Pivot,”—"What rate is joyful for you?" especially if travel is involved. And that helps me know I want to pay them what's joyful so that they're jumping out of the house to go do the gig. And if I can, ideally, then I can price it in a way that there's enough margin for my business too. Maybe 50/50. The facilitator takes 50 and I take 50%, but I just love paying what's abundant and joyful. Sometimes people tell me their rate. I pay them more. That's a value I have in my business.
Exactly. And that makes you an excellent client, obviously. And often I find people just undercharge. We'll talk probably later about the money conversation and how weird people are about it, but part of that weirdness is just not enthusiastically having the money conversation so that you can ask for what's joyful in your language.
Yeah, I always have people come up with three numbers—and I'm sure you have similar frameworks— but when you're pricing, or even your monthly nut, what you need … there's the minimum you need to survive. I know you always talk about getting past the feast or famine. So, there's the minimum needed. There's nice to have. And then, jump out of bed with glee.
And it is rare that people price to their ‘jump out of bed with glee’ number. But I find, as the business owner or the person hiring somebody, when I ask them what rate is abundant, or they tell me their number and then I even pay a little extra, they like to work with me. It means that they enjoy the work. They prioritize the work. It means that I reach back out to them, they're going to make room for me. And so, I don't know, I just find that the relationship itself and the work itself does also benefit.
Yeah, absolutely. All right, there are two more things I want to get to. So, let's try.
Because when we spoke late last year, you said that by now, when we talked, you would have been working with Jay Acunzo on your business and you might want to talk about that work. And I'd love to hear about it.
Oh, yes. I love, Jay Acunzo, is his name. He is …
Okay, I don't know him. So, yes, great.
Oh, he's so delightful. I just love what he stands for. One of my favorite taglines on his website is: “Don't be the best, be their favorite.”
He's all about quality and craft and it's so the opposite of spray-and-pray marketing and just putting a quantity of content out there. And instead, this line, “Don't be the best be their favorite,” it goes to that word-of-mouth thing. And it's how do you create with craft for just the right people where they love you? The ones that are engaged with your business love you, adore you, pass the word on to other people. And so, I'm working with Jay. It's an eight week ... he calls it the “Elevate Coaching” … and I know he's launching something later this year that's more of a group cohort type thing.
But it's just been fantastic because I realized sometimes I get so into the day-to-day of producing, in my case, my two podcasts is the main content, that I wanted to reconnect with the core.
I had done a lot of that when I did the initial brand strategy work, but we all hit walls and plateaus where maybe we feel stuck or uninspired or, in my case, after creating 500 episodes across both shows, I just sometimes wonder: what now, what's next?
And so, Jay has been great for just helping get really clear. And I'll give you one concrete example. For “Free Time,” I was always saying: “Free your mind, time and team to do more of your best work.” And Jay said, "Pick one." He's like, "Free your mind, time and team. That's a lot. That's a lot for a listener to process. Pick one. What is it really?"
And so that shifted to now I say, “Set your time free through smarter systems,” because I realized, he helped me realize, it's not free your mind, time and team, all at the same time.
If you can set your time free, all the rest cascades after that. And I don't like to think about time management; I know you did an episode on Oliver Burkeman's great book “Four Thousand Weeks.” He and I share the philosophy, it's let's not squeeze more and be more efficient and manage and micromanage our time. What does it look like to create systems that set that time free? Even like the coaching example that I mentioned.
I love that and I also love your use of the word “craft,” because this morning, when I was doing my yoga class during my free time, I was thinking about how my teacher so beautifully crafts the class. And unless you pay attention to it, you don't realize how intentional and precise and elegant and beautiful something well-crafted is, but you can feel it. And so, I just made that connection in my mind.
Ooh, I love that. And that's so true because even if you ... It's almost like, the more well-crafted, the more present you are as a practitioner in that class, and it feels so elegant and graceful and creative. That's so true. I bet she'd love to hear that if you haven't told her.
Good idea, I should tell her. And that also connects back to the idea of momentum, I think, because to craft … I'm channeling a listener saying, "Yeah, but how long does it take to craft? I got to do it quickly." And I think crafting something is a function of time and experience and even longevity.
I agree. And the thing that I have been thinking about recently is craft is also getting rid of the clutter. Whether that's time clutter, time confetti—which is just all kinds of extraneous meetings and things on your calendar, but also the clutter in my own mind.
And part of this long arc of creativity of having done this for so long, I really do picture myself like the angel in the marble stone, we always see—it's a common metaphor of Michelangelo carving away to see the angel inside. And for me, content creation is like that. I need to keep removing the clutter and the stuff that isn't me so I can keep honing in on my highest and best expression. Whether it's using my voice … I joke: “I have a personality for podcasting,” because I hate doing video. So, using my voice instead of writing. Or within using my voice, what does that look like, what's unique to me? And that's something where Jay has been so helpful. And I'll share a line that we talked about, which is, one of the best compliments is when a podcast guest says: "Oh, nobody's ever asked me that before." Aww, and so it's like, “What's that?” reaction that you might get from other people. Or, "I've never read a business book like ‘Free Time’ before." Or what they'll say to you, ilise, that: “That's the feeling we're going for,” just like you described that yoga class.
And also this idea of the podcast voice—and I also love audio only. I'm sure someone has told you this before, but your voice is so podcast friendly and I can just hear the smiling that you're doing.
Oh, thank you.
It's so clear and vivid.
Right back at you. And how could I not smile chatting with you? Oh, thank you for saying that and, truly, right back at you. There was a book. Oh, gosh, we'll have to put it in the show notes. It came out a couple years ago, and he says that our voice is our soul. Each voice has a unique fingerprint or blueprint that is unique, that is so expressive. And anybody listening to this, you know, there's some podcasters where you just can't stand their voice.
And their voice isn't good or bad, it's just not the fit for you or what it conveys. Or I find sometimes podcasters who read off of a script, I don't resonate as much. It doesn't have that organic in-the-moment quality that I enjoy.
It's not real. Exactly.
All right, I could go off on a tangent there but let's come back because there's one other thing I wanted to make sure that we cover, which is a common book that we both love and I was thrilled to read in “Free Time” that you love “The Extended Mind” by Annie Murphy Paul.
I've got it right here, Annie Murphy Paul. And all of these three ways she describes thinking that is outside of our heads. And my favorite is thinking with other people, thinking with relationships, and I just would love to hear your take briefly on that.
I love that you pulled out this book. And yes, I agree. Just thinking with other people, also going back to clearing clutter, David Allen in “Getting Things Done,” which was one of the first productivity books that blew my mind—he talks about how the mind is for having ideas, not holding them. And so, by embracing an extended mind, it means that the more we can get out of our head, especially as it comes to running the business, the more relaxed we can be, the better we can sleep at night. Because when the day-to-day or how to run your business is only in your head or your team members’, that's dangerous. And somewhere deep down you know that, if you get sick, it's all going to grind to a halt, nobody can step in and help.
Whereas, the more organized it is—I organize everything in my business in Notion because it's searchable, customizable and interlinkable—I know where to find whatever I need and so do my team members. So, it even reduces the number of questions that a team member asks me because they know where to go check first. And so, I don't like repeating myself. And, if you embrace the idea of an extended mind, it will save you time into the future, even if it takes a little more time to set up early.
And a podcast, the beautiful thing is that we are thinking together right now. And the idea that I just had was that, as I continued to delegate the things in my business—and it's not like I was trying to do it this way, but I realized I don't have to, which is, write down how I do it. No, how I do it isn't necessarily the best way. Whoever's going to help me, you write down what needs to be done. It doesn't have to be the way I did it.
Yes. And please, I always reinforce, please feel free to make suggestions. This is just a starting point. If you find a way that's better, faster, more efficient … sometimes new software comes out years later where the original way we were doing it is no longer necessary at all; now it can be completely automated.
Oh, my God. Okay. We're going to have to do a series. But I do like to end and ask the final question of, is there one, I'm sure there are several, but let's pick one baby step, of all the things that we're talking about—maybe set your time free—that you would recommend people do if they like what they're hearing and want to take a step?
My favorite baby step and I hope it's baby enough, small enough, is intentional calendar design. So, what I mean by that is set an hour aside, sit in front of your calendar, and maybe it's already booked wall to wall for the next two or three weeks. But once you start seeing a clearing, start aggressively blocking off your time.
So, for example, I have a recurring, in the month of August, ‘do not schedule’ blocks. So, in my Calendly tools, nothing will allow people to schedule. And it recurs annually, so every August the calendar tool is blocked; same with mid-December to mid-January because the holidays are so chaotic, I don't want to meet with anyone during that time. I also realize that I'm tired. Once we get a national holiday, I'm so relieved that everyone else has a day off, I kind of want one more. So, I've started blocking off a DNS the day after major holidays.
And so, have fun with this. Be aggressive. You can always make exceptions. And you probably will for VIP clients or special situations. But start now and design your calendar, and make it really spacious and abundant so that, in the beginning, you save yourself from yourself of scheduling willy-nilly, Monday through Friday, at any random time. And you're condensing your meetings into a few days a week in the time zones that you have the most energy to meet with people—not at your creative best, save that for yourself. And do any one of the things I suggested, even if it's just blocking off Fridays, do not schedule. But try if you can to set up recurring blocks so that you don't have to think about it every time, it's just there. And instead of having to choose your free time, you have to choose to make an exception if someone's asking for it.
And that is baby enough but I would add a little embryonic piece there, which is, even if it's not block off Fridays … this is what I've been doing … give myself 15 minutes before and after every appointment so that I'm not back-to-back rushing from one thing to the next.
Oh, yes. That's so important.
I love it. Yes.
And I want to wrap up by connecting this to another idea from the book “How to Change” by Katy Milkman, I don't know if you're familiar with that one. But she writes this whole thing about commitment devices where you essentially outsource your commitment. You're talking about outsourcing it to your calendar, you've carved these blocks out, you've blocked them out. But then you say, "I'm sorry, the calendar says I can't meet right now because it's already blocked off so we're going to have to find another way." And so that's kind of like extended mind, also, because you're just outsourcing a decision and then you have to abide by it.
Okay, yes. That's so good. I'm trying not to run us too long but I even found that … I call it the ‘Cyrano Strategy,’ … that having somebody respond to clients with pricing and things like that, even if ... I call it ‘Cyrano’ because I might be in the virtual bushes telling them exactly what to say, even writing the draft for them … but just creating that buffer of outsourcing the communication of something, it's so helpful. It's so helpful, especially to hold the line, whether on your time, your pricing, your boundaries. That is, I think one of the most, I don't know, beneficial ways to work with the VA is having them be a buffer, again, to save you from yourself. Sometimes they've responded to clients with my highest fee even though I didn't tell them yet and I go, "Okay, cool. I wouldn't have even done that."
Yes, because it's not about them, it's not personal. And I often tell people, “Just tell them your Marketing Mentor won't let you do that.”
Excellent. All right, we're going to continue this conversation, Jenny, obviously. But thank you so much for sharing your ideas and your free time and I will speak to you again soon.
Likewise. Thank you so much for having me, ilise, and big thanks to everybody who's here listening.
Oh, my God, we could have talked for hours. In fact, we did actually continue the conversation on Jenny's “Free Time” Podcast, so be sure to listen to that episode. I will link to it in my companion post on the Marketing-Mentor blog. And the best place to find more from Jenny is at itsfreetime.com.
As for a baby step, Jenny suggested what she calls “intentional calendar design.” Aggressively, and she used that word twice, blocking off time for yourself with DNS, Do Not Schedule, whether it's Fridays or some other recurring block.
I love that she emphasized being aggressive; aggressively designing your calendar to make it spacious and abundant. That way you save yourself from yourself like the commitment devices that Katy Milkman talks about in “How to Change,” another book I've been loving.
So, try it. Even if you block off just five or 15-minute blocks between meetings at first. Then you can gradually expand them until you are luxuriating in free time as much as you decide you need. This is your business, after all.
So, did you learn a little something? I hope so because that's how this works, one baby step at a time. Before you know it, you'll not only eliminate feast or famine, you'll also have better clients with bigger budgets. So, if you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, the first step is to make sure you've signed up for my Quick Tips at marketing-mentortips.com. Once you're on the site, you'll find lots more resources including my Simplest Marketing Plan. So, enjoy and I'll see you next time.