Big Project Beat Down

Definition of Beat Down

1 of the sun : to shine down with great heat and strength


Whether you’re staring down your overflowing storage area, glaring at your jam-packed garage, having a pity party over the idea of clearing mounds of paperwork, or standing at the precipice of your next groundbreaking due date…

You can beat down this project with some simple tips to get you started, keep you going, and take you past the finish line in record time. It’s easier than you think!

Begin at the beginning, but keep the end in mind

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step … – Lao Tsu

To say it another way, every journey begins with the first step. Remember when you were back in college and had finals looming; how did you make it through? Chances are, different people used varying coping mechanisms and may still be using some of the same. How successful were the methods you used?

Did you:

• wait until the last day(s), drink a bunch of caffeine and pull all-nighters?

• start preparing earlier and post a message on your answering machine that you won’t be available for the next 3 weeks?

• give up, go in cold and hope for the best?

• ask for help from someone who was good in the subject?

• or something else…?

However you coped in the past, if you have a (or several) complicated objectives or deliverables on the horizon, you can change your perspective. If feelings of dread come up, consider viewing the situation as an opportunity to learn and improve your effectiveness, both of with may help reduce stress levels.

We build confidence with each victory (large or small). If the way you’ve coped in the past was healthy and worked for you, build upon it. If the past was unhealthy and didn’t work very well for you, pursue another way. Whatever the situation, we all know that you can’t finish the project if you don’t start it.

One of the most crucial steps in preparing for finals is opening the book. When you think about the project in front of you, ask yourself these three simple questions:

1 where’s your book

2 what’s keeping you from opening it

3 what do you need to do to get it open

Below are some tips and tricks to get you started.

Earmark specific time and resources

Because we’re human, and not robots, our emotions can get in the way. Sometimes, what holds us back is fear of the outcome or failure, which can show up as procrastination in a myriad of ways.

Create a specific time or set of times to work on your upcoming project, schedule it on your calendar, announce the plan and reason for it to your daily companions, turn off your phone ringer and email/text notifications, and stick to the plan.

When you feel yourself starting to get distracted, pulled in different directions, or sucked into lower priority side-bars, interrupt the pattern.

Set a 5-15 minute timer and do something you will feel good about to get your well-being back on track, and when the timer goes off, go back and try again. This concept goes back to the idea of making your bed in the morning…if you make your bed in the morning, you’ve accomplished your first goal of the day. The task was easy, and it sets the tone for your continued productivity.

Some quick things you can do to refresh and improve your:

• mental state: complete a simple chore or work task that you feel good about and is easy for you

• physical state: get some fresh air, do a mini exercise set, stretch, listen to a short motivational audio session

• emotional state: write down some other projects that felt daunting to you, and you achieved

• ability/skill state: call a mentor or someone who is good at what you’re attempting to accomplish

Automate your process

Are there rules, guidelines, play books, resources that you need to familiarize yourself with in order to be successful? If the thought of getting yourself up to speed feels like a project in itself, pluck up your courage and find a way to make it fun so you can get yourself started and best aligned for success. If you don’t ensure you’re on track from the beginning, you risk needless frustration at best, and dealing with the consequences of missing your goal date at worst.

Find people who have achieved what you are desiring to accomplish to point you in the right direction. Consider setting up a working session with someone who can mentor you? Are there online videos or audio sessions that can guide you along the way?

Think about how you can make your project run more efficiently now and in the future. Will this be a recurring task? Are there manual portions that you can turn into online forms? Would creating a spreadsheet of all the online entry information needed prior to entry be of value?

Take Heart

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

Author: Dawn Armstrong, MS, CSP, CIE

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Reinvent Yourself Much?

Reinvent Yourself Much?  I do, and I can show you how to combine and rebrand all your social media pages in less than 1 week!  Not only that, but I’m creating this new series of blog posts so you can join me in creating YOUR OWN Success In Any Setting.

As a loyal follower you will have noticed the changes in my social media pages over the years.  I say “pages” because I have at least 5 different major interests that pull at my spare time, and depending on where my heart is pulling me is where I focus.


There’s a lot of maintenance to all these separate web pages and it’s a big hassle to sign in and out of each one.

The great news is…I’ve finally jumped on the make your name your brand bandwagon and am consolidating all my interests into one convenient website and brand.  I did it in just a few days and You Can Too!


  • I used the Dawning Day platforms I had already spent a lot of time and effort creating in the past, including:  Weebly, YouTube, WordPress, FaceBook, Twitter, Google+
  • I let go of any TRIAL pages that I’m not very interested in spending time on, or haven’t had time to learn how to use properly (that just means I didn’t change to the new branding, they still exist and can grow followers organically while I focus on other things…I can always convert them to the new brand later if it looks promising)
  • I re-evaluated my interests and focus (now vs. when I had created the various sites) to determine if they were still important to my moving-forward goals and vision…and I found an unexpected BONUS…there was some incredible information in my past posts that can help me today (such as the outstanding 37 week series I shared from Social Media Tools Specialist, Ian Cleary, on marketing and growing your list)!
  • While I was reviewing all the web and social media sites mentioned above, and doing my soul searching, I went on and looked for 1+ and 2+ rated service providers.  For just a few dollars, I had a new banner image created that captured the true essence of what all my products and services embody.

In case you wondering…the answer is “YES!”  I could have done the newly branded banners myself, but then the Reinvent would have taken 2 weeks.  It’s always good to leverage your time and resources wherever safe and possible.

Now that I’ve shared all my Delicious Details with you, click on the link below to head on over and check out the new site…and make sure to find the free


Dawn Armstrong:  Success In Any Setting!

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Do Your Soft Skills Suck? by Carolyn Tang Kmet for INSIGHT MAGAZINE

Do Your Soft Skills Suck?

Without a handle on the softer side of leadership, your success will be pretty short-lived.

By Carolyn Tang Kmet

Winter 2014

There are natural-born leaders and there are self-appointed leaders. Either one can navigate a team to greatness, just as long as they have the single most important, not-so-secret ingredient: Superlative soft skills.

These skills have nothing to do with technical expertise and everything to do with human relationships. Think empathy, communication, loyalty and motivation.

“Soft skills are what make it possible for a leader to connect with group members, and to motivate and elicit their best performance,” says June Chung, a group supervisor with the Social Security Administration. The way Chung sees it, soft skills are what keeps an organization “in harmony, focused and driven towards goals.”

In contrast, hard skills are associated with technical ability and functional mastery: Analytics, problem-solving, decision-making and strategic planning, for example. They’re used to enforce necessary corporate procedures through positional hierarchy and rank.

While leaders tend to be promoted based on their technical expertise, which usually is rooted in hard skills, “The higher someone progresses within an organization, the more important soft skills become because leaders spend more time dealing with people than they do executing tactics,” says Vickie Austin, business and career coach and founder of Wheaton, Ill.-based CHOICES Worldwide.

In the finance and accounting industry, the hard-versus-soft-skill distinction is amplified even further. “The nature of the work is about hard skills,” explains Tina Cantrill, president and principal consultant at Oxford & French Consulting Group Ltd., an organization specializing in building sustainable growth through high-performance environments. However, as Austin points out, leaders in the finance industry build teams as well as court and serve clients, both of which require soft skills. Partners in accounting firms are typically people who generate business through networking and referrals, and business development is all about building relationships.

To illustrate that point, here are three scenarios in which soft skills make all the difference between leadership success and failure.

Scenario 1: Your company was acquired and you’ve inherited new additions to your team. There is little interaction and a strong sense of resentment has emerged on all sides.

Dawn Armstrong, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and author, believes that in most companies, soft skills represent the best, easiest and sometimes the only way to achieve a specific business objective.

“Soft skills are the grease that allow the necessary cogs of corporate procedure to move smoothly and steadily, while keeping working relationships intact and in good standing,” she explains.

This is especially true in today’s business climate, heady with the constant flux of mergers and acquisitions, strategic partnerships and global expansion. Soft skills are absolutely necessary to ensure a company’s continued forward momentum and a staff’s continued high performance.

“In both startups and global companies, a leader is likely to be working with small to medium cross-departmental and crosscultural groups made up of an array of personalities,” Armstrong explains. Which means clear, concise communication, availability of support, guidance and intelligent questioning are essential.

“People who know what is expected of them and feel supported in achieving their goals, including being allowed to make mistakes, will go to the ends of the earth to achieve (those) goals,” says Cantrill.

Scenario 2: In every employee’s annual review, you clearly define specific goals, both technical and financial, yet performance is poor and your turnover rate soars.

Some leaders focus on the hard deliverables so greatly that they neglect to form an actual relationship with their employees. It’s as simple as keeping a hardworking team’s morale up with gestures as small as bringing donuts to a weekly status meeting, or providing a private space to conduct personal calls if an employee experiences an unexpected family emergency during work hours. Such actions build trust and inspire loyalty, and will quickly travel through the company grapevine.

Why the soft skills hurdle? For some, says Chung, it’s the perception that such skills make a leader appear weak. “However, I think this ignores the fact that human beings naturally seek connections to others. We want to see a human side to our leaders, some way to associate ourselves with them,” she says. “I think good leaders recognize a need to connect with the people they work with.”

“Vulnerability and humility…manifest as intense self-assuredness and therefore an amazingly strong character, not weakness,” Cantrill adds. “For someone to feel confident enough to be vulnerable and humble amongst those he or she leads requires incredible personal strength and self-awareness. Leaders who exhibit vulnerability and humility engender trust, which in turn creates an environment where people feel able to focus on goals and to take risks to achieve them.”

Balance is important, however. “If a leader shows too much leniency to people who may take advantage, then the leader risks not only missing important deliverable goals, but also losing the respect of more responsible colleagues,” Armstrong warns.

Finding that balance is particularly difficult for new leaders, who, Cantrill explains, tend to impose exacting standards on their people without creating an environment conducive to extraordinary performance. And then, when teams fail, they wonder what it is they did wrong.

In the absence of a strong mentor, new leaders tend to drive the “hard skills agenda” until they burn out or face a mutiny, she contends. Certainly, they excel in execution, but not in inspiring those around them to execute in concert. “They continue to play in the orchestra rather than conducting it,” she says.

Scenario 3: It’s time to close the books for the year, but no one on your team is willing to work the extra hours you need.

Treat your employees as resources, and they’ll treat their jobs as a means to an end. By taking an interest in your employees as individuals, you engender in them a sense of ownership and responsibility, and they’ll be more likely to put in the extra time when you need them to. The last thing you want is for one of your key people to be on vacation, walk out, or call in sick at the close of a financial period. Soft skills help to drive that dedication.

“Finance leaders will have the best chance of success if they foster teamwork and inspire their workers on a regular basis,” says Armstrong. “This will require having firm working guidelines, meeting regularly with the team, and consistently reinforcing appreciation and expectations.”

“Employees and clients both thrive on relationships where the leader or partner demonstrates an interest in them, a curiosity about what’s important to them and an understanding of their needs,” Austin adds. “All of those behaviors, including the ability for a leader or partner to communicate ‘I care,’ are soft skills.”

6 Tips for the Soft Skills-Challenged

Tina Cantrill, president and principal consultant at Oxford & French Consulting Group Ltd, offers these key tips to fine tune the softer side of your skills set.

Be vulnerable. Seek feedback from direct and indirect reports, and be prepared to listen and act on what you hear.

Get a mentor. Find someone who is a strong and trusted leader and observe them closely. What do they do? How do they do it? How do they communicate? What words do they use? How do people respond to them? Then model their behaviors.

Stop thinking of them as “soft” skills. Instead, see them as vital skills needed to create an environment where people can be extraordinary.

Coach your employees. A great way to learn something is to teach/coach it. Seeing the behavior in others reinforces it in you.

Include soft skills in your development plan. What gets documented gets done.

Do your homework. Read articles about the importance of these skills in creating a healthy culture. And quote them to others, as well as to yourself.

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Week 37: Month 8: WordPress Plugins to Grow Your Email Subscribers by Ian Cleary

#7: Sharing Is Caring

Encourage your visitors to share your posts to their social network of choice tobring visitors back to the site where you can convert them.

Brightedge researched the use of social sharing icons on websites and concluded thathaving a Tweet button on a website led to 7 times more link mentions on Twitter. This was based on 4 million randomly selected tweets.

DiggDigg is a social sharing toolbar that can appear horizontally or vertically on websites.

You can set it up to “float” so that as you scroll down your blog post, the social sharing icons stay visible. When you make it easy for visitors to share your content, you’lldrive more potential subscribers back to your site.

diggdigg sampleSocial sharing bar can float so it stays visible while you scroll up and down.

There are currently 24 different social sharing icons to choose from, so you have plenty of options.


Consider how you can use these WordPress plugins to increase the number of your blog visitors who sign up for your email subscription. Try them out and find the ones that improve your subscription rates.

What do you think? Have you used any of these tools? What are the best tools you have come across? Please comment below and share your experience.


Avatar of


Ian Cleary is a Social Media Tools Specialist. He is the founder of Razorsocial, a blog that provides expert information on social media tools. Follow Ian on Twitter @iancleary. Other posts by  »

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Week 36: Month 8: WordPress Plugins to Grow Your Email Subscribers by Ian Cleary

#6: Gravity Forms Builds Lead Generation Forms in a Snap

Gravity Forms is a very easy-to-use tool to create forms on your website.

For example, if you wanted to direct visitors to a separate page, you could use Hellobar to attract attention and when visitors click on the link, you could have a Gravity Form that collects subscriber details.

Alternatively, you could have it displayed in the sidebar.

When you’re building the form, you just click on the fields you want, update some basic configurations and you are up and running almost immediately.

gravity form creationSelect from a range of field types on the right and then edit the properties.

You can display the form within a page or post using the Gravity icon on the toolbar or you can insert it into a sidebar using the Gravity Form widget.

gravity-form-insert-on-pageEasily insert a form on a page or post using the toolbar icon and choose what gets displayed.

Here is an example of a Gravity Form displayed in a sidebar.

gravity form displaySample sign-up form.

Gravity Forms also provide support for AWeber and MailChimp so you automatically put subscriber details in the relevant database.


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Week 35: Month 8: WordPress Plugins to Grow Your Email Subscribers by Ian Cleary

#5: Create Clear and Effective Calls to Action With OptinSkin

A call to action clearly outlines the next course of action to the website visitor.

OptinSkin allows you to easily create subscription forms based on designs that are effective at converting visitors.

For example, when readers get to the bottom of a blog post, it’s likely they’ve read (or at least skimmed) the article and received some value out of it. At this stage, having a clear call to action within the blog post can be a very effective way to get a new subscriber.

Within about one minute, I set up the following form at the end of my blog posts:

optin skin sample designCreate an effective call to action within your blog posts in less than a minute.

This stands out on the page, gives great options for sharing and also encourages visitors to subscribe.

OptinSkin provides extensive configuration options. So while it can seem a bit confusing to begin with, you can achieve very attractive forms such as the one shown here in less than a minute.

There are great analytics with this as well. You can see the number of signups, impressions and conversions for each of your blog posts.

You can also do split-testing so that you can display two different versions of your opt-in box and see which one works best.


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Week 34: Month 7: WordPress Plugins to Grow Your Email Subscribers by Ian Cleary

#4: Make it Very Easy to Subscribe With WP-Leads

Another way to encourage your commenters to subscribe is to catch them at the point they are posting the comment.

Normally when readers comment on a blog post, they need to enter their email and website address. Using WP-Leads, you can kill two birds with one stone and also use this information to sign readers up.

WP-Leads places an extra checkbox underneath the Post Comment button to allow the commenter to subscribe to the blog there and then.

wpleads checkboxWhile you have their attention, get commenters to subscribe to your blog right then.

When you configure this plugin, you can choose to have the checkbox checked by default, but that means that commenters may be unwittingly subscribing. Therefore, you should be careful with this.

When these details are collected, they can be automatically added to the email management program of choice; for example, MailChimp or Constant Contact.

Note: If you use AWeber, you need to use AWeber Comment Opt-in plugin, which basically does the same as WP-Leads.

It’s such a simple tool that you should ask yourself, what are you losing by not having it and what can you gain by having it?


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