About Jessica Bertsch

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So far Jessica Bertsch has created 267 blog entries.

The Importance of Brand Consistency


If you’ve ever done a branding exercise—designed a logo or rebuilt a website, for example—then you’ve already begun to embrace the idea that branding is an important part of business. And yes, the visuals of your brand, like logos and websites, are important. But your brand is much bigger than the aesthetics.

Your brand is everything that a customer or perspective customer encounters when it comes to your business. It’s your mission statement, your values, your written communications, your commercials or print ads, and, of course, it’s your products and services.

If your brand were a person, it would be the equivalent of its personality. There’s even a term for this: your brand identity. And the people interacting with your brand make purchasing decisions based upon emotion, not logic (even when they think they’re being super smart about “doing their research”).

Your job as the creator or manager of your brand is to make sure the emotions your customers feel include sentiments like familiarity—they recognize and know your brand—and dependability—they feel like they can rely on you to be the company you present yourself as. If you don’t care about your “brand identity,” if you think that’s a bunch of fluff that has no substance, you send that message too (one that’s better for your competitors).

So, what’s the secret to sustaining a brand that’s easily recognizable and trustworthy? Brand consistency is everything. And yes, you can hire very expensive consultants or teams to support this effort, but if the budget’s not there for the pros, you can also still be mindful about brand consistency and reap the rewards.

Get team buy-in. Your employees should be experts on not just your products/services, but also the story your company tells—its value proposition. This is true whether their job description includes sales or not. When everyone working for you is clear on your “why” and “how,” they’re better able to support your brand consistency efforts from within.

Refer to the manual. Create and enforce brand guidelines that are to be used by everyone involved with the business. These are the colors and fonts we use. Here’s our origin story. This is the tone/voice we write with. These are our target demographics. Mapping out the visuals and storytelling choices you’re committed to as a business in a set of brand guidelines means everyone has and can easily follow the same set of rules. That translates to greater brand consistency.

Pro Tip: Your brand guidelines can be an informal document or a beautifully crafted packet. Either way, they are (should be) a living, breathing thing that is regularly revisited, reviewed, and updated as needed. If there are changes made as you do business (e.g., new product offerings, new graphics, etc.), make sure those are reflected in your brand guidelines and then implemented across all platforms and branding assets.

Promote accessibility. The best way to get everyone on the same page—your best chance of having consistent brand promise and delivery—is to make sure your branding assets, including your brand guidelines, all live in the same place and can be accessed by the content writers, web designers, and marketing specialists who need them. This way, everyone is pulling from the same agreed-upon sources. And it’s an easy way to avoid version confusion too. This folder/file/drive should always house the most recent versions of any branding collateral you use.

Pro Tip: Worried about losing or deleting the older versions of things? Make a sub-folder in your branding assets collection for archived materials, and you can easily go back and reference what has been used in the past.

Whether you dive in and fully commit to revisiting and revamping all the elements that together make up your brand identity or decide just to dip your toe in, like with one of the suggestions above, it’s worth the effort. Your customers and potential customers will get to know you better when what they see is consistent in all the places you interact with them (social media, website, etc.). As that happens, you’ll show yourself to be familiar, reliable, and trustworthy. And ultimately, that will allow you to share more of your special brand of value with the world.

2021-08-01T21:06:08+00:00August 1st, 2021|

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Sarah Zerr

While Powerhouse Planning (Powerhouse) may be an entirely virtual company, we still manage to find ways to connect with each other, ensuring we know each other and work well together. We may be spread out across the country, but we were doing remote teamwork well before it became a thing this past year. It’s part of what makes the Powerhouse Team Solution so successful. So, imagine our excitement three months ago when we were introduced to our newest team member, Sarah Zerr.

Sarah, like so many of us at Powerhouse, is a military spouse. She’s also a Marine Corps veteran and helicopter pilot. After hanging up her active-duty hat, Sarah decided there was no better way to start her civilian career than as one of Powerhouse’s stellar project managers. In her first few months, Sarah has slowly been getting acclimated to the way we do things and taking more of an observer’s role while she learns the specific processes and structure here. Her “outsider’s view” of things has already been making an impact, one we’ll be seeing much more of soon.

Initially, Powerhouse drew Sarah in because we’re primarily made up of military spouses and veterans. “Having been both, I know and appreciate what type of person it takes to serve in those ways,” Sarah says. Being fortunate enough to call our founder and president, Jessica Bertsch, a friend was icing on the cake. “I knew any organization [Jessica] was a part of, especially one she founded, was going to be a great place to work and spend my time,” Sarah says. With only three months under her belt, Sarah says she’s already found a work home that speaks to her, one that allows her to fit work in at her own pace. She can have a heavy workday one day and the next shift to a light one to focus more on her young family. “At my current stage of life with two young kids (and now a puppy), work is what actually provides balance,” she says. Finding a company that not only understands but also actively promotes that work/life balance for its employees is key.

Speaking of that young family, Sarah and her husband are the proud parents of Ellie, 6, and Jack, 4, as well as a teething, four-month-old goldendoodle puppy. “He’s fun and cute, but it’s a tad hectic with a new puppy and little kids who aren’t the most trained themselves,” she says. Having recently transitioned from her Marine Corps career flying CH-46E helicopters is a change for Sarah and her husband who were married shortly after their graduation from the Naval Academy. Her husband, a Marine Corps major, recently made a minor career change himself, when he transitioned to the Marine Corps Reserve. Having a little more stability in their home life is something the family is looking forward to enjoying, along with experiencing all those daily little moments.

“I love photography,” Sarah says, “It’s a bit of a creative release, but has been awesome capturing so many memories.” She started her amateur photography hobby when her oldest was born and quickly learned that having the ability to capture those everyday moments spoke to her. She says, “I love looking back at older pictures of the same activity and seeing the obvious changes, even in a photo that is taken just months apart.” Sarah says that her favorite photos aren’t the posed ones, but the ones that record those “tiny details [that] make me stop and appreciate them more.”

That passion for capturing still images is something Sarah also uses to speak for her. In fact, when asked to describe herself she replied, “I’m someone who hates talking about myself. I’ll just give you extra photos for the blog article instead.” What those photos show is a woman dedicated to her family and one who truly enjoys spending time with her favorite people. Being a mom, Sarah says, is satisfying,  and she hopes one day she’ll look back on these years as one of her greatest accomplishments. But she also finds “managing an idea that turns in to awesome physical content is a great small win that I directly see and feel good about.”

Which is why Powerhouse is such a good fit for her, and it speaks to the best advice she can give: “Decide what it is you need or are missing. For me, I needed something to be able to point to and say, ‘I helped achieve that.’ Once you identify what you truly are missing to feel fulfilled, it may take some sacrifices in other areas to achieve it, but it is worth it.” For Sarah, that was why Powerhouse was such a perfect fit. It allows her to be involved in content creation, taking a client from that initial idea all the way through to the “beautifully developed product.” That she can also work with nonprofit clients is a bonus. “Helping the helpers also has some pretty high job satisfaction,” is the way Sarah puts it.

It’s clear Sarah will positively contribute to Powerhouse over the years, and she’s excited for the roll out of our new website. While not quite ready for prime time yet, the website is one of Sarah’s first projects with Powerhouse, and she can’t wait for everyone to see what we’ve come up with. “At Powerhouse, we have helped with the branding of a lot of companies. I think our new website and content brings our branding up to the outstanding level we offer our clients,” she says.

We couldn’t leave without asking Sarah to tell us something about herself not many people might know, especially her new colleagues at Powerhouse. She says, “Although I was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, I actually hate roller coasters and most amusement park rides. I am not looking forward to when my kids outgrow the kiddie rides and I have to go on the big roller coasters with them.” Don’t worry, Sarah, now that you’re with Powerhouse, some of us will volunteer to go on those rides with your amazing children so you can keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Which is honestly one of the things we love about you.

2021-07-08T02:28:20+00:00August 1st, 2021|

New Powerhouse Team Member

Emily brings her passion for helping others and experience in operations, marketing, event management, and customer service to every project and team. Emily served in a number of operational, logistics, event management, and client care roles in both professional and collegiate sports. Following her time in the athletic world, Emily transitioned into health care, serving in business development roles for both a hospital and a pharmaceutical company.

Emily grew up in a small town in Kentucky and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. After graduation, she started her career in sports in California. Always up for a challenge and new adventure, Emily has had experience with teams and organizations across the United States, from the west coast to the southeast and a few in between. Emily brings her passion for helping others to her personal life as well. She served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children, working to meet the needs of children in the foster system of Kentucky. Outside of her professional and philanthropic endeavors, Emily is a newlywed who lives in Atlanta with her husband, Eric, and “fur babies,” Oliver and Brady.

2021-07-28T01:52:28+00:00July 28th, 2021|

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Shannon Toft

This month, we are turning the spotlight on to Powerhouse Planning’s Shannon Toft, one of our freelance graphic designers, who is celebrating her first anniversary with us in June. She’s been an absolutely amazing addition to our team ever since another one of our stellar employees, Meghan Traynor, first encouraged her to apply for a position. Shannon says, “I knew I wanted to be a part of this company based on all [Meghan’s] positive discussions about it. So glad she referred me!” (We are, too, Shannon!)

In the short time she’s been with Powerhouse, Shannon has designed social media ads for The Children’s Hunger Project, Kova Covers, and Powerhouse. She’s also worked with other clients, but it’s her first job with Powerhouse that she remembers most fondly: “My very first project was to design the new Powerhouse t-shirt. I learned so much. It pushed me creatively, and I love that I was able to design a product that would be worn throughout the team.” Currently, Shannon is pushing herself out of her comfort zone by taking a Software Engineering Immersive program, which she hopes will result in her being able to transition into a web developer role. It’s something Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch fully supports: “I always encourage our team members to expand their knowledge and follow their passions.”

That attitude is one of Shannon’s favorite things about Powerhouse. It inspires the kind of atmosphere that fosters creativity and growth through professional support and motivation. “I love working for a company that appreciates their employees’ work and values their time,” she says. It’s one reason Shannon is positive she’ll be around to witness the constant growth Powerhouse experiences. “I can’t wait to see where we are in five years,” she says.

When not working at expanding her professional horizons, Shannon loves to learn new things and stay busy, especially creatively. Anything involving arts and crafts catches her fancy, and she’s addicted to trying all kinds of creative outlets. She describes herself as the type of person who works hard and plays harder. Family-oriented, with three siblings and ten cousins who might as well be siblings, Shannon believes her dad and her aunts and uncles are the ones who instilled such a strong work ethic in her. “They were all hard workers. My dad was a single parent, and every day I saw his hustle and how he managed to stay positive through any situation,” she states. His philosophy and example are still what Shannon strives to imitate daily.

Shannon and her Coast Guard husband have been married for ten years. They met on a blind date, organized by one of those aforementioned cousins, and have been together ever since. They love to travel (though these days they find themselves mostly working on their home) and have been to Japan three times. “It’s amazing there,” she says. “We even went to Tokyo Disney and drove go-karts dressed as Mario characters.” Disney is a staple of Shannon’s personal life. “I grew up in LA before being a pass holder was super popular,” Shannon says. “I would go to Disneyland before my night shift, ride however many rides I could before I had to leave, and head to work.” It’s all part of her desire to find a good work/life balance . . .

. . . Which is another thing Shannon appreciates about Powerhouse. Being able to balance work, home life, and me-time are essential to Shannon’s well-being, and she loves working with a team that prioritizes finding that balance. “I schedule all my tasks for the week in my planner, and that includes personal time. I find it helps me to know what needs to be accomplished even if my plan doesn’t always work out perfectly,” she says. Being realistic about how much time each task will take is essential, as is putting your well-being first. “Even just a five-minute mental break here and there throughout the day can make a difference,” Shannon comments.

Shannon says her favorite Powerhouse service/resource is our Share the Goodness program. “It shows how generous Powerhouse is and makes me feel lucky to be a part of a company that displays such a moral virtue,” she says. For those who may not know, Share the Goodness is Powerhouse’s charitable giving program. Founder Jessica Bertsch made giving back a priority from the inception of Powerhouse Planning, and 10% of our gross profit goes back to the communities that our team members call, or have called, home. For Shannon, seeing the impact that Powerhouse has made in helping others is inspirational and motivational.

As always, we asked Shannon to tell us something not many people know about her. She shared that growing up, she never listened to music from the radio. “My dad was a musician. He would play jazz, funk, and soul music. Sometimes, it makes me feel like I should’ve been born in a different time period because I’m so out of touch with music from my generation.” Well, Shannon is certainly not out of touch with achieving a work/life balance and creating dynamic graphic design collateral for our clients. And she may have given us an idea for our next virtual team meeting . . . music trivia, anyone?

2021-05-11T16:25:05+00:00June 1st, 2021|

New Powerhouse Team Member

Sarah is a Marine Corps veteran, military spouse, and mom of two children, and she is excited to share her leadership and project management skills with Powerhouse Planning. After attending the United States Naval Academy and graduating with distinction and a B.S. in aerospace engineering, Sarah served in the Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot for six years. Her favorite part of the Marine Corps was leading and being a part of a motivated team of dedicated individuals who were committed to serving the greater good. Ultimately, Sarah decided to transition out of the Marine Corps in order to grow her family while her husband, whom she met at the Naval Academy, continued to serve in the Marine Corps. When her husband transitioned to the Marine Corps Reserves, they moved back to Sarah’s hometown, and it became the perfect time for Sarah to reenter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom. Sarah has been watching Powerhouse Planning grow for the past four years and truly believes in the company and its group of military spouse freelance employees. In her spare time, Sarah loves sharing her passion for photography. She enjoys volunteering as a youth cross country coach and serves as a chair for a local swimming pool committee. Sarah is currently working toward earning her Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate and is eager to bring those skills, as well as her leadership and positive attitude, to Powerhouse Planning.

2021-04-06T19:02:27+00:00April 6th, 2021|

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Heather Osborne

It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into 2021, isn’t it? After the interminable year that was 2020, we’ve all been reveling in the promises a new year brings. Which is why we’ve decided to focus this installment of our employee spotlight series on one of our newer Powerhouse superstars: Heather Osborne. Among her many, many talents, Heather lends her executive assistant expertise to our clients as well as her sense of humor and positive outlook to all of us here at Powerhouse. Trust us, 2020 got so much better when Heather joined our team last April!

Heather’s executive assistant talents highlight one of our lesser-known service offerings. (Seriously, if you’re wondering if Powerhouse can help, take a page from that ubiquitous app tagline: there’s a Powerhouse service for that!) Heather provides executive assistance for Living Off Rentals/Green Vet Homes, for whom she does everything from scheduling and preparing newsletters, to researching and finding contractors, managing social media, organizing podcasts, maintaining websites, and preparing the annual business plan documentation. Her talents allow the client to focus on growing the business and making the most of the opportunities that come around.

While Heather has been with Powerhouse for less than a year, she already has some favorite things about it. Namely, how supportive everyone is of each other and how Powerhouse provides flexibility for professional growth. Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch is adamant about encouraging that growth; she’s a master at bringing out hidden talents her freelancers weren’t even sure they possessed! Just ask Heather about hosting Powerhouse’s virtual “Salute to 2020” Power Hour. She brought festive fun as well as healthy reflection on what has to have been the strangest year we’ve ever known. Which just goes to show that the support she speaks of is something she offers in spades.

Heather is a veteran military spouse. Her husband, John, served for 26 years in the United States Marine Corps. She’s the proud mom of three sons, the eldest of whom is currently serving in the Marine Corps; the middle son will graduate from Texas A&M this year with a civil engineering degree; and her “baby” is 14 and already both a second degree black belt and an Eagle Scout. So, Heather knows something about service, as well as how to juggle multiple schedules and cheer on amazing accomplishments. It’s probably why she describes herself as someone who “likes to work” and “enjoys being part of a team.” She understands how to utilize the group dynamic to get things done and thrives on being organized.

When she’s not working, Heather will most likely be found spending time with her family, whether that means watching movies or geocaching, or curling up with a good book. Whatever she’s doing, it’s all family-oriented and designed to bring her a good work/life balance. That commitment to balancing professional and personal health is one of the other things she admires about Powerhouse and why she believes that in five years Powerhouse will still be helping businesses reach their best potential. Finding that balance means being focused and intent on work when it’s work time and “turning it off at the end of the day.” When you’re balanced, you work better and can do more for your clients.

“Schedule everything,” Heather says. Seriously. Put me time, family time, work time, all of it in the schedule. It allows you to see where you’re productive and to find the places you’re not quite in balance. And put family first. Putting family first will ensure that you get work done and done well so you’re not interfering with what is most important in life: spending quality time with those you love.

Because we’re taking some time this year to focus on us, we asked Heather what her favorite services are that Powerhouse offers. She loves them all (we told you she was supportive), but admitted to a particular fascination with graphics and web design. “That creative side of Powerhouse is dynamic!” were her exact words. She added, “There always seems to be a new service that comes up every time I turn my head.” So really, how could she choose just one or two favorites?

Professionally, Heather is happiest when she can take a task off clients’ hands so they can manage the business side of the house. “They are happy, and it makes me happy,” she says. It all goes back to that balance thing. Heather has found that “peace of mind outweighs everything.” When you put faith and family first, everything else naturally tends to balance out. That makes for more successful workers and a happier, better grounded individual. It’s a beautiful circle.

As always, we asked Heather to share something not many might know about her. She answered with the fact that she taught the deaf and hard of hearing for years and is fluent in sign language. We’re not sure about you, but we’re busy trying to figure out how to leverage that skill into another Powerhouse service . . .

2021-03-05T19:33:18+00:00March 5th, 2021|

New Powerhouse Team Member

Heather grew up in a small town in Illinois and took a job in California right after graduation. When that job ended, she knew she wasn’t ready to go back to Illinois, so she enlisted in the Air Force and served for six years. After her enlistment was over, she soon became engaged and married her husband, Tony. They’ve been married for over 20 years. They have two boys, Tony and Niko. Heather has spent the last almost 20 years being a stay-at-home mom, finishing her business administration degree, working part-time, and volunteering at an almost full-time pace. Her various work experience includes office manager for a temp agency, real estate agent’s assistant, thrift shop manager, retail management, and operational team lead. She believes all these experiences have helped her understand how important it is to continue to build your skills because you don’t know when a great opportunity—like Powerhouse Planning—will come along. Heather is thankful she can continue her volunteer commitments and have the ability to maintain her life-work balance as she only has her youngest son at home for a few more years.

2021-02-11T04:15:32+00:00February 11th, 2021|

Reflecting on 2020

The year 2020 brought some unique, unprecedented, unexpected, “un-everything” challenges with it for our communities, our nation, and our world. You just can’t escape that 2020 will go down in the history books with one main descriptor: it was the year of COVID-19. It’s true that we all had to attempt some adjustments to how we do business, even to how we interact with one another. The biggest lesson we all learned has to be that, even with all the technology we are fortunate to employ, there’s just no substitute for the human touch.

The skillful application of technology, specifically virtual work, to that human touch is exactly what Powerhouse Planning excels at accomplishing. In fact, 2020 was our best year ever! It does seem strange, considering the circumstances, but not only did Powerhouse have its best year ever, but our clients were incredibly successful too. The way Powerhouse is structured happens to be the way many companies had to pivot to, and we were well-placed to help them make that shift successfully. We grew our client base this year, and several of our retainer clients renewed their contracts. We enjoyed returning clients and an increase in project-based opportunities as well. We continued to work with clients such as Cape Henry Associates, Operation: Job Ready Veterans, Nomadés, and PayNet. We also added new clients, including Green Vet Homes and HelloHealth. We are blessed to work with some phenomenal companies and help them spread goodness in this world.

Our growth remained steady, largely due to the strategic vision of Powerhouse President and founder Jessica Bertsch. “We’re committed to keeping our team small but highly effective. We only grow team members when we need to,” she says. That strategic vision was cemented with the lessons we all learned from the pandemic this year. “People have realized that you can work smarter and harder at home because time management becomes so crucial. We’ve been blessed and thankful for our remote careers,” she goes on to say. The experience we have with working remotely is what made the pandemic so easy to navigate; we were already used to the challenges of remote work, and we’ve only solidified our commitment to remaining a strong, vibrant virtual work community.

One of our favorite things about Powerhouse is our “Share the Goodness” campaign. Jessica made a conscious decision when she started Powerhouse that she would give back 10% to our communities across the world. This year, we sponsored multiple children through The Children’s Hunger Project of Brevard County, Florida as well as continued our support of our sponsor child, Ambiya, through World Vision. Ambiya was the first recipient of what became our “Share the Goodness” endeavor, and she remains a Powerhouse employee favorite. We helped provide 10 families with Thanksgiving meal baskets with the Space Coast Basket Brigade, and Powerhouse Operations Manager Jennifer Kirkpatrick led the charge to raise funds for 25 more. Powerhouse’s Indiana State University (our founder’s alma mater) scholarship supported a professional aviation flight technology major who used the funds to pursue his dream of becoming a professional pilot by working to earn his commercial aviation licenses. We also founded a Salute to Sisterhood Scholarship with the AOII Foundation, which will serve to help young women interested in leadership opportunities.

We asked Jessica and Jennifer if there was anything they’d add that summed up 2020, lessons learned, inspirational quotes, really anything. Jessica offered, “I keep coming back to that phrase, ‘My plate is full.’ You know, the idea that you have all you can handle. For me, God gave me a full platter. That’s a blessing, but what I’ve learned this year is that I need to ask for help. In the end, by asking for help I appreciate others more and we can still do so much and make a big difference. In other words, self-care is huge.” Jennifer added that when you ask for help you should consider how that makes others feel. “If we communicate and ask for help when we need it, we come together and are stronger as a team.” Those who are asked to help feel important and appreciated, and those who receive support are doubly blessed.

Communication really is key, and it’s something Powerhouse has worked on this year in particular. “We’ve worked hard to create an open, inviting environment. Our brainstorming meetings with the team are some of my favorite work memories from this year,” Jennifer said. Jessica added that it’s been a year dedicated to focusing on our team members. “We started with a few of what we call Power Hours. Small, volunteer, virtual meetings with our team members that don’t necessarily have anything to do with work. We also added a quarterly State of Powerhouse address where we let our team know what’s going on. We didn’t realize how crucial these two things were at first, but what we’ve learned is that our team craves that transparency and ability to get to know one another. Creating that bond is one of the reasons we’re such a unique and effective virtual workforce.”

Moving into 2021, we’ll continue to focus on improved communication and transparency with our team. We’ll be the same in all the right ways, just better able to help our clients make a difference. And that’s really what drives us at the end of the day—taking the talents we have and applying them to our clients’ needs in order to be a force for good. Our clients are all working hard to better our world, and we love being able to help them achieve or surpass their goals. Still, Jessica hopes that 2021 brings back some of the normalcy 2020 took away. “I miss our people,” she says. “I can’t wait to be able to travel to our clients again. I’m grateful that we had our best year ever, but I look forward to getting back to building our relationships in person.” We couldn’t agree more.

2020-12-24T03:13:39+00:00December 29th, 2020|

20 Tips for Time Management

Let’s face it—we all think we need more time to get things done. Whether it’s finding a perfect-for-us balance between work and life commitments, working through that massive to-do list the boss handed down Monday morning, or just finding that all-important “me time” we need to refocus and rejuvenate, we all like to blame time as the main culprit for why we can’t get everything done. It’s true, there are only 24 hours in each day, and the average human spends quite a few of those sleeping. While we can’t magically add hours to your day, we have compiled some tips from experts in the time management field to help you maximize the hours you do have.

1. Perform a time audit. Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. Just as you’d perform an audit on your company’s books, perform an audit on how you spend your time. You just might be surprised by how much time you spend on tasks like reading email or catching up on social media. A time audit helps you understand where your waking time goes each day. And, of course, there’s an app for that! Several, in fact. Try RescueTime, Toggl, or Calendar to help you get a clear idea of where your time goes.

2. “Single task.” Did you know only 2% of us efficiently multitask? That mean that 98% of us actually lose time when we try to multitask! So when you go to tackle your to-do list, pick one task, focus solely on it, and when it’s done, you’ll know you gave it your best.

3. Organize, organize, organize. One thing the experts agree on is that organization is key to effectively managing your time. So, we’re sorry to have to tell you, but your mother was right: It really is best if everything has a place and everything is in its place. An organized workspace (and thus a more organized mind) saves more time than we think.

4. Plan ahead. There’s no substitute for good planning. Take a few minutes at the end of your day to prepare for the next day’s tasks. Create your to-do list and get your workstation reset, restocked, and ready to go. In the morning before you begin, take time to review your list and prioritize the three or four tasks you need to complete that day. Additionally, take some time on Saturday or Sunday to reflect on what you’ve got coming up the next week and set a week-at-a-glance priority calendar. Then you’ll have an attack plan for the week. Make sure to leave some flexibility for those last-minute tasks that always seem to appear just when your plan is working well.

5. Set goals correctly. Experts suggest using the SMART system for setting goals. In other words, your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART). Use this system with every goal you set, small or big. If it doesn’t meet the SMART criteria, consider whether or not it truly is a goal (or even necessary). Eliminate any “goals” that aren’t really goals and hone any that need a little more direction.

6. Set a time limit for each task. We’re not multitasking anymore, so this should be easier. Set a time limit to achieve each goal. Say you have a report to write for your boss and it should take about two hours to complete. Make that your time limit. It helps you stay on track and complete the task. You can even turn it into a game. Think of it as “work solitaire.” If you give yourself a time limit, chances are you will stay more focused and use your time more efficiently.

7. Take a break between tasks. The human brain can only focus for about 90 minutes at a time, so build mini breaks into your workday. They don’t have to last long. Take five minutes to grab another cup of coffee or tea or fill your water bottle. Spend five or ten minutes checking in on social media or to listen to a segment of a podcast. Anything that works for you to reset your brain and prepare to double down on your to-do list once again.

8. Spend mornings on your MITs. “Most Important Tasks” (MITs) are the items on your to-do list that have the highest priority. Experts suggest you spend your morning hours focused on these tasks because early in the day is when we tend to be most focused and have the most energy. Leave less important tasks for later in the day, especially when those mid-afternoon blues set in.

9. Instill “keystone habits.” These are what John Rampton, writing for Forbes, calls the habits that transform your life in a positive way. Things like adding exercise to your daily routine, or eating healthier, or meditating. These are the habits that replace our bad habits and help us become healthier, more focused individuals. So even if you think you don’t have time, make time. In the long run, it’ll actually give you more of that precious commodity.

10. Use a calendar. Actually, the experts say, “Use a digital calendar.” A digital calendar can be accessed from multiple devices and carry across several applications. However, if you’re like some of us at Powerhouse, you swear by your old-school paper calendar. Whichever you prefer (or go hybrid!), using a calendar helps you stay on top of your schedule and means you won’t overschedule yourself. Using a calendar also gives you a broader perspective on when you are busiest and when you can schedule activities like that yoga class or school volunteer opportunity you’ve been trying to work in.

11. Use a to-do list. It seems like one of those givens, right? Everyone has a to-do list. Yes, but do you write yours down? Writing out your to-do list helps you stay on task. Or, you can simply organize the tasks you need to do by order of priority. While you’re at it, add a “done” section to your to-do list. While it’s satisfying to cross off items, it’s just as satisfying to see that “done” list grow the more tasks you complete. Plus, it helps you organize (and remember) what you’ve done when it comes time to send in lists of your deliverables, create invoices, etc.

12. Just say “no.” Nobody likes to say “no” when asked to do something. While we secretly might want to say it, often times we don’t want to be that person. Still, learning how to say “no” is one of the best things you can do to manage your time. Only you know when you’re reaching that critical point between being able to manage the tasks you have and being overbooked. If you just don’t have time to contribute to this month’s bake sale or to organize the costumes for the school play, just say “no.” We promise it gets easier the more you practice. And you’ll find that when you are able to say “yes,” you appreciate it more.

13. Don’t waste time. There is plenty of waiting time built into our daily schedules. Whether it’s waiting to pick up kids from school, waiting to see the doctor, waiting for your oil change to be done…You get the picture. Wait time doesn’t have to be wasted time. Bring a book you’ve been meaning to read with you or listen to an episode of your favorite podcast. Or, work on small work tasks that don’t necessarily require you to block out your surroundings. It might surprise you how much you can get to just by utilizing all that wait time.

14. Block out distractions. In the times we’re living in, this may seem like an impossible task. With parents and students working more from home these days, distractions seem to be the norm. Still, to be the most productive you can be, try your best to block out distractions. Close a door if you can, lower your blinds and turn on a light, silence your phone. Remember, just because a phone is ringing doesn’t mean you have to answer it. If diffusing some essential oils or putting music on low helps you focus, then do that. The idea is to create a zone where you can forget about your surroundings and focus on what you need to accomplish.

15. Don’t chase perfection. Believe me, as a not-so-in-the-closet perfectionist myself, this is probably the hardest tip to follow. However, perfection really doesn’t exist and trying to attain it can waste a lot of time. Do your best and move on. Your best is almost always better than sufficient (and better than you think) to get the task done. Do your best, add it to your “done” list, and start on the next task—after a small break, of course.

16. Don’t wait for inspiration. This is a perfect partner to #15. We can sometimes get bogged down in waiting for inspiration to strike, but the fact is it might never strike. The best thing to do is just to dig in and get started. Inspiration might strike while you’re working. Or it might not. Still, chances are great that you’ll still complete your tasks in a way that will satisfy your boss or clients.

17. Before meetings, determine your desired results. When preparing for a meeting, make sure you and your team have decided what you hope to accomplish. Build an agenda and stick to it. We’ve all been in those meetings that drone on and in which nothing seems to get accomplished. We all think those meetings are huge “time sucks,” so change the way you meet. Determine what you want to happen and stick to it; if it becomes apparent that you won’t see your desired results from that meeting, then cut it short and schedule a follow-up meeting. This flexing gives everyone a chance to go back and reassess or complete some more work in order to meet effectively next time.

18. Delegate. Most of us are not great at delegating tasks. We get it. Either we feel embarrassed that we can’t do it all, or we’re control freaks, or maybe we just never learned how. Still, learning how to delegate—and then doing it—is one of the quickest and easiest ways to “gain time.” Of course, we at Powerhouse excel in this area. It’s why we exist, after all. So if you can’t delegate tasks to those within your organization, check out all the ways we can help give you back some time so you can focus on the MITs on your own to-do list.

19. Train the other side of your brain. This is a tip from the time management experts at Toggl. Engage in activities that use the part of your brain you don’t use at work. You’ll find that it’s easier to solve problems and you’ll work more efficiently the more you develop both sides of your brain.

20. Sleep well. Strive for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. We really can’t stress enough how getting good sleep will help you with your time management skills. There are key reasons humans need to sleep: It refreshes our brains, our bodies, and our emotional well-being. So cut out caffeine after lunch time, put down those screens and TV remotes at least an hour before going to sleep, and enjoy the ways a good night’s sleep will help you feel as if you’ve gained time in your day.

In the end, each of us has the same 24 hours in a day. What you do with those hours—and how well you manage them—matters. As Gandalf famously says in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” So how are you spending yours?


2020-10-06T16:55:12+00:00December 1st, 2020|

20 Tips to Plan Strategically and Set Goals

If you’re thinking about developing strategy and setting goals for your business, it can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you do? With these 20 tips, you’ll be well on your way to getting your big dreams out of your head and into a workable plan.

 1. Start with your mission. You have a mission already, right? That powerful statement of your purpose in your work should drive everything you do each day. And it should be your North Star as you set goals for the future of your business.

2. Do your homework. Grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable. Review where you’ve been. Run the reports. Look at your numbers (revenue, market share, annual growth, whatever indicators you’ve identified as your key metrics for success). Read the Yelp reviews or customer service logs. Pull in whatever information you have that speaks to how you’ve been doing.

3. Be a truth-teller. As exciting as it is to dream big dreams and work to execute them, this process can be uncomfortable. You may be faced with (temporary) limitations to what you can do. You may find you’ve missed the mark or dropped the ball in one area or another. You may not have handled a certain situation as well as you’d have liked. Be honest about what’s happened—all of it, the good, bad, and ugly.

4. Learn from your mistakes. No self-flagellation required. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” The only real mistake is not taking advantage of the opportunity to reassess and choose differently next time.

5. Look at the market. Conduct a market analysis. What’s happening in your industry? Who’s buying what and how much? What patterns or trends are emerging? What challenges might you expect? What opportunities might exist? It’s worth noting that this isn’t a one-and-done task. You should be aware of (or designate someone to be aware of) what’s happening in your market regularly. Set Google Alerts. Follow key influencers or thought leaders on LinkedIn. Keep your finger on the pulse of your field.

6. Check out your competition. They should be part of your market analysis, but also warrant a special callout. They aren’t the bad guys who are taking your business. (There’s enough magic and opportunity to go around if you’re creative and resourceful.) They are a great source of information regarding what’s working or not working in your space. Whether you see something you like or dislike, either is an opportunity to learn about what you’ll do and how you’ll be as a business leader.

7. Gather your team. Decide who will be part of this process. Will you include only senior management? Department heads? If you’re a small business or start-up, maybe it will be you and your teenage daughter who works after school for you (just keeping it real).

8. Solicit input. Who are your stakeholders and what are they saying about your business? Encourage your employees to share their experience working with/for you and what you can do better or differently. Ask your customers to provide feedback about their customer experience. Anyone who interacts with your business in some capacity offers valuable information.

9. Prioritize. What’s most important to you? Where would your business most benefit from change or dedicated focus? Where have you struggled that you’d like to address? What opportunities do you see that you’d like to run with? The correct answer to this question is not “all the things” (even if it feels like all the things need to change). Pick a few of the things that will have the greatest impact and start there.

10. Be realistic. Not that you should settle for less than what you want, but you do want your goals to be achievable. Ask yourself if it’s practical and feasible to pull off what you’re hoping to do within a designated period of time (one year, three years, five years max).

11. Realize size matters. Dream big, start small. Do you have a big, bright, shiny goal in mind? Break it down into smaller steps that, executed over time, will have a big impact.

12. Be descriptive. What are the details that make it clear what you’re trying to do? Pretend you’re a reporter (or a 10th-grade English student) and answer the Five Ws: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

“We want more business.” Of course you do, but what does that mean, exactly?

“Our marketing team will increase our social media reach by 10% quarterly.” That statement tells a better story about what you’re aiming for.

13. Take measure. How will you know when you’ve achieved success? What do those numbers look like? Build tracking, measurements, and analysis into your game plan.

14. Make a shopping list. What resources will you need? Do you need more staff? A new software program? A consultant who specializes in an area you’re looking to improve? Be clear about what resources—time, manpower, and money—you’ll need to actualize your goals.

15. Assign responsibility. Who will be responsible for what? Be clear on roles and responsibilities for each goal and/or action required to execute your plan. Who’s in charge? Which person or team will be doing the work?

16. Celebrate milestones. If your goal is a bazillion dollars (though, you’ll have lots of money for that party), don’t wait until your desired end state to celebrate. Acknowledge designated points along the way. Keep your team motivated to continue driving toward your bigger goals.

17. Take action. Avoid the common trap of planning to plan and, instead, plan to act. Your beautiful goals mean nothing if you don’t use them!

18. Check in regularly. Your strategy and goals aren’t meant to be pulled out once every three to five years for review. Schedule regular intervals—monthly, quarterly, annually—to assess where you’re at, whether you’re on target with your goals and timetable, and what challenges or opportunities might be important to hash out.

19. Be flexible. Your big vision most likely will not change, but your path to get there likely will. The market may shift, the economy may be impacted, your team may shrink or grow—any number of variables may impact the way you do business. By being fluid, adjusting and adapting, you’re more likely to reach your goals.

20. Be kind. To your team executing on your plan. To your customers and clients who may love or hate a new direction you take. And to yourself. This is a process. A never-ending, often frustrating, sometimes uncomfortable process. It won’t always be fun. But it will be productive if you give yourself and others some grace.

Goals and strategic planning aren’t some big monster to be slayed. They’re tangible processes by which you can strengthen and build your business. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started!

2020-09-15T03:38:08+00:00November 1st, 2020|
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