» 4 Steps to Manage Your Time More Effectively

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Time is one of the most valuable assets any business can possibly have – time to build infrastructure, attract new clients, serve current clients and stay in touch with past clients. Time is a limited resource, however, and way too often we waste it when we could be maximizing it and experiencing growth.

Understanding the impact that wasting time and properly managing it can have on your business is critical to your success. Achieving maximum success requires maximum time efficiency. So how do you manage it?

Make a to-do list

We might think we’re the ultimate multitaskers, but our brains can really only focus on one thing at a time. Making a to-do list allows you to prioritize tasks that need to be done and keep track of how much you’ve accomplished and how much is left. It is a simple way to make your use of time more efficient. If you don’t like paper lists, try going high-tech and keeping yours on your phone or tablet.

Recognize common time traps

In order to fix a problem, you need to clearly define what the problem is, right? Time issues tend to sneak up on people because we think we’re working hard. Email is a prime example. Checking it all day and at home simply diverts you from doing actual work. Busy is not the same thing as productive. What other functions take too long and drain the life from your business?

Eliminate email waste

First, leave your email for the office. Use your time at home to take care of yourself, your health, your family and those non-work affairs that need addressing so you can be your best self at work. Turn off your notifications so incoming mail does not interrupt your workflow. Set aside 15-minute periods to address what needs to be done in your inbox, generally not more than three times each day, unless your email volume requires additional time. Maximize the efficiency of your email management by setting reminders to act on waiting emails, using templates for responses to frequently asked questions and inquiries and using software or an app that allows you to schedule emails in advance.

Use apps to help manage time

Instead of trying to keep up on your own, leverage technology and research and select apps that take over the functions you’re currently trying to manage by hand. There are social media apps that you can use to pre-schedule content and monitor your presence. Financial apps that can help with payroll, accept payments from your customers and assist in preparing your taxes each year. Event software apps take all of the work out of seating arrangements for your clients and creating all important timelines. You can win back so much time you are currently wasting in your business by simply identifying helpful apps.

Good time management essentially boils down to identifying areas of weakness and addressing them with best practices and great technology. You can take your wedding business to a whole new level by taking control of your time management. Don’t wait – start today!

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and National Vice President for WIPA.

» 6 Easy Tips for Self-Care During Wedding Season

self-care during busy season

Wedding season is a constant flurry of activity with early mornings and long nights for most wedding professionals. With so much focus on work, this can leave your energy, health, enthusiasm and creativity drained. That’s where “self-care” comes in. According to GoodTherapy.org, a directory of therapists operated by an association of mental health professionals, self-care includes “actions that an individual might take in order to reach optimal physical and mental health.”

These actions can take many forms and will vary depending on what peak health means to you. We’ve listed some common activities you can do on a busy day to practice self-care during peak season.

Make a cup of tea (or Joe, or cocoa): Hear us out! Hot drinks aren’t very popular in the summer months, but a warm mug of decaf tea or coffee is a great way to unwind and relax for a few minutes at the end of a busy day. Beyond the soothing experience of sipping on a steaming beverage, the ritual of preparing tea (or the drink of your choice) will help you to decompress during the busy season.  

Find time for a walk: As a creative professional, you’re probably up and about for most of the day, so this isn’t necessarily a walk for exercise. Rather, use this walk as an opportunity to take a few deep breaths, enjoy the warm weather and not think about work. Even if you have a full day of appointments or weddings, try to carve out at least five or 10 minutes to stroll and be alone.

Stretch it out: The benefits of practicing yoga are well-documented, but who has the time for a 60-minute class when you’re a fully booked pro? Thankfully, you can still reap the benefits of yoga — relaxation, mental clarity and stress relief  — without executing dozens of perfect vinyasas. Start or end your day with a few simple stretches or yoga poses, if you know some. It’s not so much about what you do, but taking the time to do it, that will help you to claim some of the benefits.

Grab a kid, a partner or a best friend: Essentially, anyone who’ll give you a hug and put a smile on your face. One of the first things that busy people tend to do is cancel dinner plans, skip family gatherings and begin to send calls to voicemail. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re really busy, especially for a prolonged period of time, you need your social network even more to keep you happy and healthy. As this wedding season approaches, consider scheduling a regular date night with your love or putting time on the calendar to call your friends in other cities. Trust us, you’ll want all the belly laughs you can manage to get you through the season!

Tap into your creativity: You got into this business because you wanted to do creative things, so be sure you don’t lose sight of your creativity this wedding season. As often as your schedule allows, spark your creative juices by reading your favorite photography books, flipping through fashion magazines, checking out the latest makeup trends or any other activity that relates to your craft. You can also use this time to peak into how other industries are translating new trends in technology, color, texture or materials. Though it may seem indulgent during your busy wedding season, soaking up inspiration and being creative will help you weather this wedding season.

Enjoy the weather! How ironic that wedding professionals spend nearly every summer weekend working long, long days? Don’t let the warm weather pass you by, no matter how busy you are. Take the time now to schedule some time to drive to the beach, attend an outdoor concert or movie or fire up the grill with friends and family. Whatever your favorite summer activity, be sure you have time to indulge in it before Labor Day.

These suggestions are just a start. Take the time to brainstorm a few of your favorite activities that help you recharge and how you can be sure to make time for them this wedding season.

» Starting Your Morning Off on the Right Foot

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but the way you begin your day has a huge effect on the rest of your waking hours, so it only makes sense to start your morning off on the right foot.

As you enter the day, be sure to make some time for yourself to be present and focus on taking care of yourself before diving into anything work-related.

Starting Your Morning Off on the Right FootWith that said, I understand more than most people how difficult it can be to really step away from work even if just for a hearty breakfast and a cup of coffee. I’m the type to check social media right when I wake up only to continue on to my email. Sometimes completing small productive tasks in the morning can help with motivation for the rest of the day.

However, my rule is that I can clean up the emails I don’t need since I know a smaller inbox will help me have a clear mind, but then I move right on to writing in my gratitude journal. Once I get to the office, I’m able to quickly sort through the leftover emails and respond to the ones that I need to.

What works for me is to assign a topic to each day of the week so I can focus my efforts on one thing, but still accomplish all of my work for the week. For example, my Mondays are dedicated to business development, while Tuesdays are for client work. When I get into the office, I already know what I’m working on so it takes only five to ten minutes to plan out my top priorities.

To-do lists are considered morning musts in my office because it helps keep us on-track with all of the things that need to be completed. They aren’t always work tasks, but it’s so helpful to be able to see all of the top priorities written out in front of you. We also make an effort to double check on to-dos for the following day so we’re not going in blindly the next morning. With due dates set, it forces you to do all of the assigned tasks instead of picking and choosing what you want to do.

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» 5 Ways to Take Time for You

5 Ways to Take Time for YouAll month long we’ve been shining a light on wedding planning stress – for both couples and our pros. As we head into the summer months, more and more of your weekends are going to be busy with weddings and all the preparation that comes along with the busy season, so we’re here to help keep you cool, calm, and collected.

We just celebrated WeddingWire’s Official Day Without Planning for our couples, but since we know you can’t always take a full day off from your busy schedule, here are five ways to take time for you!

Hit the gym

Even if exercise is already part of your normal routine, it’s important to balance your mental exertion with physical exertion. Break a sweat running on the treadmill, meditating in hot yoga, or taking a long walk before or after work. If you spend a lot of your day on your feet already, try another activity like swimming or cycling to work different muscles and break the monotony.

Head to the spa

What better way to blow off some steam than some R&R? Whether you go in for a quick manicure/pedicure (men can enjoy those, too!) or schedule yourself a massage to loosen up the knots in your back, spend some time focusing on yourself. Even a quick visit to the hot tub or steam room can help you relax and reflect on your personal life so you can hit the ‘reset’ button for a while!

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» Top Tips to Reduce Stress – From the Experts!

Top Tips to Reduce Stress – From the Experts!Our #WeDoSomethingBlue campaign aims to help couples reduce wedding planning stress during the busy season, but what about our pros? Don’t you need a break? After all, you’re not just planning one wedding – you’re planning them all for your clients!

Whether you’re putting together personalized song lists, carefully-selected bouquets, or managing all the day-of details for your clients, the busy season is a stressful time for wedding and event pros. We asked some of our WeddingWire Education Experts to weigh in with their tried-and-true tips to reduce stress during this crazy time.

Plan ahead and take a break

“We all look forward to busy season and then, when it’s upon us, we can’t seem to catch our breath. The key to reducing your stress is to get organized before the craziness starts, and then stay ahead. When you get behind in your day to day tasks, you’re like a hamster on the wheel, and you can’t seem to get off. Proper advance planning, and leaving room in your timelines for the unexpected things that pop up helps break the cycle.

Remember to take a break every so often. Working non-stop is a sure path to burnout. Give your creative mind a break, take a walk, walk the dog, or whatever works for you, but get away from it. You’ll recharge your creativity by removing yourself from what you’re doing. Thomas Edison is famous for taking power naps on his desk. His wife brought a bed into his office, but he still napped on his desk. My secret… I have a recliner in my office, and if there’s a gap in my schedule, I enjoy a power nap. Whether it’s a 15-minute power nap, or as long as an hour (time-permitting), afterwards, I feel recharged and ready to keep going.”

Alan Berg, Certified Speaking Professional®

Write it all out and get away

“When you’re going crazy during wedding season, commit to yourself that you’ll do two things: complete a nightly and a weekly brain dump, and schedule some occasional breaks. For the brain dump, just spend a few minutes each evening writing out every random to-do item you can think of – you can then sort them and add the important stuff to your calendar. Repeating this exercise in more detail once a week, and taking time to map out your goals and priorities for the days ahead, will keep you from stressing about forgotten tasks and missed opportunities. Be sure, also, to schedule yourself at least a couple of days every month to do absolutely nothing but to rest and recharge. Even if you aren’t going anywhere, just having that time blocked off as sacred can make all the difference in the world in your mood and energy levels. Combining a little organization and a little relaxation can keep you going all season long.” Continue reading

» Streamlining Your Business with Policies and Procedures

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Time is money – we know this to be true because it’s one of the worst things you can waste as event professionals. But, what happens when we’re the ones wasting our own time?

Streamlining Your Business with Policies and ProceduresFrom disorganized routines to missed appointments, we’ve all found ourselves wishing there were 25 hours in a day. Chances are, there are a few minutes here and there that you can shave off of your current schedule with simple procedures – and those minutes can certainly add up!

Not only do policies and procedures put time back into your pocket, but they also make things much easier for you and your team. Your day-to-day processes will not require lengthy explanations once clearly mapped out. It’s also a great way to ensure quality control of the client experience, keeping your team consistently on brand.

While putting policies and procedures in place can seem like an intimidating task, it’s certainly manageable if you begin with baby steps. Start as early in the process as when a prospect reaches out to you and look through the different touch points of working with a new client.

Email drafts are a great place to start and are a key time-saver – they’re easily customizable so they’re still genuine, but you won’t have to worry about writing each email from scratch. So what to tackle first? Consider some of the following:

  • Responses to initial inquiries
  • Follow ups with inquiries
  • “Best of luck” emails if they book with someone else
  • Email to let someone know you’re already booked for a date
  • Email to let someone know if you don’t offer a certain service
  • Welcome email after booking
  • Out-of-office response
  • Post-event wrap-up email
  • Post-event review request

While planning ahead, think about how the inquiry process would feel if you were the interested client. What does the flow look like? How can it be improved upon? There’s no better time to assess how you’re doing than the present.

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» Success Tips to Get Your Year Started Off Right

Success tips 2015The start of a new year is a great time to check in on yourself and how you are feeling, both on a professional and personal level. It is also a great time to ‘re-set’ any negative habits or re-align yourself better for success. These success tips will help get your year started off right!

We know that new year resolutions can be tough to stick to at times, but this recent article on Entreprenuer.com focused on tips to better yourself and go from simply successful to very successful in manageable ways.

Check out these common success myths and the truth behind them, and how we think this can apply to your events business!

Myth 1: Successful people say, “If I can fit it in, I should fit it in.”

Truth: Very successful people are selective.

To be successful, you have to learn to be able to say ‘no’ sometimes! You cannot do everything, and be everywhere, so set priorities for your growth this year and only say ‘yes’ to the opportunities and events that best align with your goals. If you find yourself over worked, now could also be the time to start delegating more or add another member to your team!

Myth 2: Successful people sleep four hours a night.

Truth: Very successful people rest well so they can be at peak performance.

Sleep is an important factor in your success and overall health! While not every person needs the exact same amount of sleep to function at optimal levels the next day, aim to get close to a recommended eight hours of sleep per night. This will help you wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day! Put down work a bit early to catch some extra sleep, and you will likely perform better the next morning and at your events.

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» 3 Tips to Help Improve Productivity

Many view the summer as a time to relax and unwind but for people in the wedding industry, it’s the opposite. Summertime is wedding season, which means it’s the busy season for wedding professionals. How can a Pro make the most out of the 24 hours in a day?

Here are 3 management tips that will not only help you manage your time efficiently but also help improve productivity:

1. Stay focused on the task at hand

3 Tips for Improving Productivity

We live in a world of constant communication and distraction. With so much always going on, multi -tasking often happens. However, multi-tasking can interfere with effective time management and productivity. By splitting your time between several things, like reading an email while you are on the phone with a client, you are not putting all your mind power towards your tasks. It may seem easier to split your time up between things, but that can lead to lack-luster work. Focus on one task for a given amount of time. Doing one task at a time will improve the quality of your work and allow you to be more organized and efficient.

2. Prioritize

As the day goes on it tends to always get more hectic. Whether you realize you have a last minute deadline or you discover you have more work than expected, it is easy to feel crazed as the day comes to an end. Focus on doing your most important tasks at the beginning of the day to make sure they get done and get done well before the chaos of the day ensues. Set out daily with a list of items to do and prioritize your tasks: the beginning of the work day is always the best time to do the biggest and most important things to make sure they get done.

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» Are You Too Busy to be Successful? A Look Back and a Look Forward

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is a member of the National Speakers Association, an author, and founder of The Wedding Industry Leaders Conference, an organization dedicated to the educating and consulting of highly motivated individuals and businesses. Learn more at http://alanberg.com/.

Last year I did a survey to get an idea how you’re all faring as the economy recovers. The good news out of the survey was that, at least at the beginning of the year, most of you felt your 2013 was going to be better than 2012, or even your best year ever. That was very encouraging news after quite a few years of, what felt like, a black cloud hanging over all of us.

The beauty of the wedding industry is that it’s recession-resistant. It’s not recession-proof, as many of us discovered. Even in the depths of a recession couples are still getting married, but things change. However, I’ve been in and around this industry for over 23 years, through many good times and many bad. What I’ve found is that, despite the economy, there are always those who find a way to survive, and even thrive, in any economy.

Are You Too Busy to be Successful?How’s business?

I remember meeting a wedding pro on a flight to Las Vegas for a conference, back in 2009, the depths of the recession. We’d known each other for many years, way back to when I was publishing wedding magazines in New Jersey. I asked him “How’s business?” and he answered “Fantastic, and it scares me.” When I asked why it scared him, he said it was because he didn’t know why it was so good, while others around him were crying wolf.

Seize the opportunity

I told him that I had a pretty good idea why business was so good for him. He’s always been proactive and never afraid to invest in his business, good times or bad. He would take the highest visibility ad placements and best bridal show booth placement. While others were finding a rock to crawl under, waiting for the recession to pass, he was grabbing every opportunity to stand out. Fortunately for him, his competitors were literally giving him more business by pulling back on their marketing and placements. What do you do when things are looking bad? Do you pull back, or do you take the opportunity to grab market share, while it’s easy?

How do you define success?

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» 8 Ways to be Productive During the Holidays

8 Ways to be Productive During the HolidaysThe end of the year is right around the corner, which means that the next few weeks are “crunch time” for many. It’s even more stressful with the knowledge that many people (from clients to employees, and even yourself) travel and take off work during the holidays, which means less time to get everything done!

Don’t panic. Although there may seem like a lot of expectations during the holidays, you shouldn’t let yourself burn out too quickly. Step away from the chaos and be productive during the holidays with these 8 tips:

1.  Plan early.

Even if you promise yourself you’ll be working from home or working remotely on or surrounding the holidays, you can still fall behind. Plan the days you’ll be taking off or out of the office early so that you can figure out your own timeline for getting things done.

2.  Communicate the schedule.

Communicate your schedule with other coworkers or employees with details on your availability while you may be “out of the office.” Also be sure to communicate any closures or time restraints to your customers so they know when they can expect to hear back from you. Consider including basic details on your availability and the best way to get in touch in an email auto-reply and your voicemail.

3.  Create to-do lists and prioritize tasks.

Now that you know your schedule, create your to-do lists. Make sure to prioritize your tasks – there are tasks that are important and urgent as well as tasks that are important but not urgent. Know the difference and prioritize that way! Checking tasks off your list will be satisfying and will help you relax.

4.  Don’t multi-task.

Work on one project at a time rather than several at once. You should have created your to-do list in the step above, so go down this list one project at a time until you’ve hit the end of the must-dos. Working on several projects at once may lead to none reaching full completion.

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» Strategic Planning for the “Slow Season”

This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

For many wedding businesses, the insanity of the fall wedding season and winter holiday parties leads to a much-needed slow period in the New Year. Of course we’re all grateful for an opportunity to rest and recharge, but keep in mind that January-March is the perfect time to conduct strategic planning to jump-start your business (and increase your income!).

Strategic Planning for the "Slow Season"Most of us know that a ton of couples become engaged over the holidays and Valentine’s Day, while couples who’ve been procrastinating often resume their planning after the New Year. While you’ll undoubtedly be busy fielding inquiries from these couples, you’ll probably also be executing fewer events in the first quarter, so it’s smart to use the extra time to do things that will positively affect your business all year long.

You’ll want to start by identifying your business goals for the year: quantitative goals related to revenue, number of events booked, and number of referrals earned, as well as qualitative goals such as doing more networking or earning an award in your field.

Once you know what you hope to achieve, you can then break down those goals into individual projects and tasks that can be completed during the first quarter.

Some examples:

  • Set aside time to review all your current processes and workflows. Are you spending your time on activities that increase your profits? Are there ways you could be more effective? Is everyone on your team contributing in a meaningful way? Are there tasks you’ve been putting off?
  • Create a strategy for enhancing your relationships. Relationships, and the referrals that result, are hugely important in this industry. Therefore, you’ll want to create a two-part plan for building relationships with both your clients (past and present) and with other wedding professionals. The plan might include outreach strategies (such as networking events, one-on-one lunch or coffee meetups, or site visits) as well as seasonal promotions (such as cards or tokens of appreciation). Continue reading

» Time Management Tips that Work!

Do you ever feel like there “just aren’t enough hours in the day?” Time management can be a struggle for us all, especially in the busy wedding and events industry!

From running a successful small business, to making all of your events perfect and personalized, to dealing with co-workers, and family commitments each day — it is easy to sometimes feel overwhelmed and over-worked.

We compiled five proven time management tips to help you get more done and stay relaxed and on track:

Create two ‘to do’ lists each day: Start your day off right by reviewing your tasks of the day, and setting expectations for what you will be able to accomplish given your priorities. Create a ‘must do’ list that includes only the tasks and items you need to do that day, and another list that focuses on work to be done, but that is not super immediate. This will help you focus in on timely items, and not be distracted by items that can be done tomorrow. Be sure to be reasonable with your expectations for yourself and the amount of time each task will take, so you will end the day accomplished and at a decent hour!

Plan your day: As you get started with your ‘must do’ list, challenge yourself to plan your full day out on a calendar. Do this by reviewing your ‘must do’ list, and syncing it with your other commitments. Have a client meeting, emails to catch up on, and a personal lunch? Plan those on your calendar, and give yourself set time periods for your other big tasks. This will help you to focus in on those tasks at the time you set, and not be distracted by other projects or daily distractions. Consider dedicating a set amount of time to answering emails and returning phone calls each day – such as first thing in the morning and at the end of your day so you don’t get behind – so you know they will be addressed daily, but will not interrupt your other tasks and workload.

Take a short break: Short breaks have been scientifically proven to increase motivation and productivity. Schedule 15 minutes for an afternoon walk, or mid-morning blog browse or enjoy a quiet coffee. Giving yourself a quick break will help you relax and refocus!

Delegate when you can or just say no: In a small business environment or as an entrepreneur, it can be easy to take on a very ambitious workload. While it is important to work hard and be scrappy, it is also important to set limits. If you simply do not have enough resources to take on each new job (or the ROI is not worth your time), it is okay to politely decline so you can do the rest of your work to your best capability. Additionally, if you have other team members, share the workload fairly. Consider challenging them with new responsibilities and take the time to train them well. This will show them you are committed to their growth at your company, and relieve you of an added obligation.

Reduce distractions: Consider your daily routine. When you are particularly busy, be sure to cut down on distractions so you can focus and get things done as efficiently as possible. Do you listen to music? Have family or co-workers chatting around you? Attempt to multi-task as you work from home? Even if you are used to them, these typical occurrences are distracting. Consider giving yourself an hour of ‘quiet time’ by unplugging or shutting your office door and you may surprise yourself with all you accomplish!

These five tips will help you stay focused, and keep you feeling on track instead of overwhelmed! Try them out and comment to let us know what you think – and of course, if you have any other suggestions that work for you, comment and share with other Pros!