Listen to this podcast Ep. 139: From Chaos to Control: How Mindy Iannelli's Systematic Approach To Productivity Can Save You Time and Stress.

Interviews, strategy and advice for building your online business with your host Trudy Rankin.

Trudy Rankin: Welcome to the Online Business Launchpad podcast. I'm your host, Trudy Rankin, and today I have got Mindy Iannelli with me on the podcast. And I was interested in chatting with Mindy because she does something that a lot of people find very, very, very difficult, and that is she works with people to help them be more productive in what they do.

So she's a productivity and an automations coach, and a lot of times when people say, automations or automate this or automate that, people freak out because it's oh no, that means you have to work with a technology. But actually it's something that can make a huge difference to your life. It can keep you sane, having a little bit of extra time back in your life and just having things just a little bit more automated can make a huge difference to how many other people that you can help.

And so I asked Mindy if she would come on the podcast and she said yes.

So Mindy, welcome and thank you very much for being on the podcast.

Mindy Iannelli: And thank you for having me, Trudy. It's a pleasure to be here.

Trudy Rankin: Yeah. So let's just as we get started, can we start by maybe sharing with the listeners a little bit about who you are and how you've gotten to the place where you are now with your own business?

Why was Mindy interested in starting her own business?

Mindy Iannelli: Sure. So I went back to school when my son went to kindergarten. I was becoming a single mother and decided I really wanted to go back into a career that interested me. So I went to school for web design, and that was back in 2008.

And over the years I've wound up helping my clients with so much more than web design, and I found that there's so much more that I could help them with than just the website or just their online presence.

And a lot of people get stuck and I was one of those people getting stuck and at one point, Said, okay, this is enough. I need to figure this out. I need to get something done about this so I can actually move forward in my business. Cuz I felt like I was spinning my wheels all the time.

And that's when I just started learning about productivity, different productivity methods, and setting goals and creating habits. And I think a big aha moment for me was when my son was diagnosed with ADHD.

And I thought, wow, maybe that explains a lot about me, about why I lose my focus so much. And a lot of the things that they were working on with him really made sense, like building the habits and getting systems together. So I figured, well, if it's going to work for him, it could work for me. So I just got on set a goal to really get focused.

And I figured out the way to do that was through systems and through habits, and I saw that as I could help my clients with that, then they were actually able to get more productive. And you don't have to have ADHD to benefit from systems and habits. We all need it.

So, that's where I've come today, I've just transitioned into coaching.

And I still do a little web design also, but I find that the coaching really helps people to move forward in their business.

Getting focused: tips for success

Trudy Rankin: That's really interesting because one of the things that seems to be a very common denominator amongst online business owners or entrepreneurs is that whole bright, shiny object syndrome where something new comes up and it's just like squirrel, and you're often looking at something else and doing something else instead of the thing that you are focusing on.

And I'm sure you don't have an answer to this, but it'd be interesting to me to know what percentage of people who do have that kind of a tendency do tend to be little bit down to the left or the right of the middle in terms of how well we can focus on a particular thing. You don't even have to call it ADHD or anything. It's more a matter of maintaining a focus, a very intense focus on something. And I don't know, have you done any study into that or whether or not as business owners or entrepreneurs, we tend to have tendencies that way.

Mindy Iannelli: Well, I do follow, I've been following for a while who's been a big help to me Is Darren Hardy. And he's a success mentor and he has a course called Insane Productivity, which I took and learned a lot from. And one of the things he talks about is this overwhelming world that we're in. So there's digital, this, there's distractions everywhere.

And 40 years ago, yeah, we had distractions, but it was nowhere near what it is today. There are literally just distractions in our physical world, in our mind because we have so much that we feel like we need to be doing. So one way to get that off of our minds and to clear the mind clutter is through writing things down and having your goals set on things that you need to do and to really to plan. And shutting all physical distractions. I even have made for my clients a sign to hang on their door. Don't bother me now. Cuz from experience of being a mom, you know somebody's going to knock on the door or open it and then you've lost 23 minutes of productivity.

So, I don't think there's anybody that really is going to come to that naturally where they just know how to sit and stay focused, especially in this world that we're living in right now. It's something that we really have to work on and have to set those habits. And set of those systems so that we are successful.

Trudy Rankin: I think that's a really good point, especially when you talk about distractions. I'm smiling to myself because, you say, put a sign on the door, I need to put a sign on my forehead because it's me that distracts me. I'll see something interesting and I'll suddenly think, oh, that'd be interesting. And then think, no, no, I've got something I have to do. Better do that first and then I can go and have a look. But it's a really, really pertinent point about how there are so many things going on that it can be very difficult to focus.

The process of staying productive

Trudy Rankin: For yourself in terms of your own way of working and the fact that you have a business and you're helping people and you're coaching people, what would be a typical day for you and how would you organize your day so that you can be as productive as possible?

Mindy Iannelli: So I've actually created a planner that I share. I have a couple different versions of it. And what I do is, first of all, I plan my week. I look and I put down all of the non-negotiables so I know what I have to work out.

Like we had this meeting for today, so that's a non-negotiable and I have to plan my day around that. And then I look at my top priorities. I have three top priorities for the week, and I make sure all the activities that I'm writing in and scheduling in are on my priority list. And then I set up time blocks. And you can do them in however long really, it works for you.

The Pomodoro Method, which I'm sure so many people have heard about, is 25 minutes and then take a five minute break, and then you go back on for 25 minutes and usually you'll do three of those. Some people work better in 45, 50 minute breaks. So it's really finding out what works best for you. So I set up my time blocks based on what it is that I need to accomplish in that time block. Everything else gets shut down. That's the only thing I'm working on. If I think of something else, I have a piece of paper on my desk that I write it down so that I know, okay, take that out of the brain clutter and I'll deal with that later on when I'm done with this.

Moving away from task mentality and being realistic can have a significant impact

Mindy Iannelli: Yeah, and that's really, I get so much done that way and it kind of takes you away from that normal task mentality. These are all the little tasks that I have to do. If you look at everything as a project and you break it in into chunks, then during that time block, you're going to work on that project. And that's why it'll take a time to evolve until you really learn how long things take.

Because a lot of times we'll say, oh, I'm going to write four blogs, and you've only allocate it it 45 minutes. Well, that's not realistic. So as you realize how long things actually take, you'll designate a certain amount of time for that, and at the end of it, you feel very accomplished. And then it motivates you to move on and to do the same thing the next day because you feel like accomplished.

You feel like you've moved the needle in your business a little.

Trudy Rankin: Actually, I think that's a really good point. I have to confess to being a recovering, never to be completely cured of, a list maker. All of these things that I've got to do and I do use a system that's a little bit similar to what you're talking about, where there's the one main thing, if you get the one main thing done, you consider that that day's been a success, but I invariably end up filling up that thing and then the next two things and the next two things, plus all the admin tasks and everything. And it does take quite a lot of discipline, I have found personally anyway, to create the list and limit yourself just to those things.

The time blocking method

Trudy Rankin: And then as you say, time blocking's critical to actually being successful. Cuz that's one of the things we do in our community is we have three days a week, we have an hour set aside for working on a specific task. So we have like co-working sessions and things like that.

And the reason I'm bringing that up is because for me, time blocking was one of the things that I found extraordinarily difficult to be disciplined about because it's really easy to put them in your schedule.

It's really difficult to make yourself stick to them. So what kind of tips or or advice could you give to somebody who's thinking about using time blocking, but they're like me and they tend to just do it and then ignore it.

Mindy Iannelli: Right. And a lot of people are like that. And it took me a long time because really we don't tend to put ourselves and our business first.

And I find especially maybe, as parents, if you have kids or if you're taking care of other people, there's always somebody else that we're going to put first or somebody else's business. The client called and they need this right away. And I learned to make an appointment with myself. So those time blocks are appointments with myself.

I'm not going to call up my dentist and say, oh, you know what? I need to reschedule. I can't come in today. I know I'm supposed to be there in 15 minutes, I'll just come in some other time. You're not going to do that. And if I look at these time blocks as appointments with myself that are non-negotiable, like once they're written down there, I have to do them.

The process of Building productivity habits

Mindy Iannelli: And it took a long time. Like none of these things are just going to happen overnight. Like they really do take work and to keep doing them. And that's why I feel like you said, you do the co-working. I also have a co-working group that I run, and even during my time blocks, I do them by myself, but I find that when I'm online, in front of other people even, we're not talking or anything, you just, they're on camera. I find I get a lot more work done.

I am a lot more focused and during that time block that I'm co-working with somebody, I do get a lot more done because even though I've learned to make an appointment with myself to get those time blocks done, it does add another level when there's somebody else there with you.

Trudy Rankin: Yeah. Well that's interesting that you use co-working as a way of being more productive as well. I've discovered that it's a very, very effective way of helping out. I do want to ask you one quick question about co-working though. How do you manage it so that they don't turn into chit chat sessions?

Mindy Iannelli: Oh, the microphone goes off.

Trudy Rankin: So, you turn your microphone off or you turn everybody else's microphones off.

Everybody's.

Ah, I get it. Okay. That's really nice. That's a nice way of doing it. But yeah, for anybody who's listening, if you are either thinking about how you can be more productive yourself, that's actually a really good thing to do. And that is join a co-working group where you are actually focused on, that's the whole goal is to get stuff done while you're there. No, that's really good.

Who is your ideal client and how do you help them?

Trudy Rankin: So can you just talk a little bit more about the people that that tend to be the ones who are interested in getting your help and, and just how you do it.

You've mentioned coaching. You mentioned the co-working group. Just talk a little bit more about what you do when you're working with people and who exactly you work with.

Mindy Iannelli: Right. So I work with people who have been in business for a few years and really gotten stuck and really haven't been able to move forward.

So we talk about what their goals are and set up timelines. So if you are now making this amount of money, and now by the end of the year, you want to double it, triple it. We talk about whatever the goals are, whether it's a money goal, whether it's, a certain number of clients, whatever that goal is, and then we step back, we break it down, and we only focus on a quarter.

Focus on three months at a time. We set an appropriate goal for that, and then we just discuss what it is that they need to accomplish in that time to help them get to the ultimate goal. So basically that's, like how most coaching will work.

But the big thing, the biggest thing that we have to tackle, especially in the first three months, is getting those appointments with yourself. Setting the time blocks, setting those goals each week and realizing that it's not something you can just write down and say, oh, I didn't get to it. I'll write it down again next week and I'll write it down again next week. So that's when we have the conversations each week. We have check-ins daily just to see where you are.

And then the co-working sessions are extremely helpful. So between the regular coaching sessions and the daily check-ins, it really helps to keep on track and have those goals of what needs to be accomplished that week. And really it's just setting up the systems so each week you'll just have a new goal.

You'll have your business goal, but you also have a goal on something that you're trying to work on, whether it's creating a new habit, building out a new system in your business, something that's aside from the main goal that you're working on, but that once you build out is going to help you actually get to that goal.

Trudy Rankin: No, that makes a lot of sense. So just out of curiosity, do you run your co-working sessions every day? Or is it like once a week or how many times a week do you run sessions?

Mindy Iannelli: I've been doing them three times a week. I am going to be going daily with them because I did realize that even if not everybody can show up each time, I'm going to be doing my jam session anyways.

So why not just log on and do a co-working session? If people come on, they come on. So, yeah.

Trudy Rankin: Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. Quite a lot of sense because like I said, we run three a week and then I have a fourth one that's for a separate group that I run for people who are making quizzes. Building quizzes.

But just the discipline of knowing that people could turn up and there's a group of people who do faithfully turn up means that for me, there's definitely an incentive to turn up, be productive, and it gives them an opportunity to be held accountable for the things that they've said that they're going to do.

I think that's a really, really great system.

Trudy Rankin: So, if you think back to all the people that you've helped with putting productivity and automations in place, is there anything that's, or any one particular situation that sort of stood out in your as being a really big aha moment or a win?

Mindy Iannelli: There is one client who was feeling very down. And they were really getting on themselves and saying, I can't do this. I can't do this. I keep trying. I can't do it. And when they turned around and really had that aha moment, oh my God, I did it. It was like a kid that tied their shoes for the first time.

And I just keep seeing her face with that realization that wow, I can do this. And after that it was like just exponential growth. It took a while to get to that point, but once it really clicked in, yeah, that's something that'll really stick with me is that just that look on her face and that realization, and then to see how she grew after that.

Trudy Rankin: That's something special that I think that people who are coaches and teachers, educators get to experience that other people don't. And that's just that seeing the lights come on, understanding dawns, and then people take action. And then, it's all them. They had to take the action.

They're the one who created the success, but helping to flick the lights on is just so satisfying. At least it is for me. I don't know about you, but I find…

Mindy Iannelli: No, it really is. Yes.

The power of automations to save your time and sanity

Trudy Rankin: Yeah. Yeah. So I'd like to talk a little bit about the other side of the coin. So you talked a little bit about productivity and good productivity habits.

Do you want to talk just a little bit about the automation side of things, which of course then gets into the kind of the time saving side. And just, I think where I'd like to start with that is, from your experience, what kind of automations would be the ones that actually bring about the biggest difference in terms of making people's lives easier?

Mindy Iannelli: The first one that I usually set up for people, believe it or not, is, something like Calendly or Acuity because they go from just, oh, I want them to call me and we'll make an appointment. And going from that to automatically having that appointment booked on their calendar, and not only booked, but paid for, that there's no chasing down invoicing later or …it seems like such a small thing, and I've had clients who have fought it and fought it and fought it, and when it finally kicks in and they're like, oh my God, I'm saving all this time not having to invoice later or worry about if the client's going to show up because you know what, they're going to show up because they already paid you.

That's definitely the biggest one. And then another huge one is really just getting away from the free email marketing cuz a lot of people are really concerned with having to pay for things, especially when they're first starting out. But what happens is when you set up on the free email marketing, it's not going to do the automations for you.

So when somebody signs up for your lead magnet, they'll get some sort of email. But it's nothing professional looking. It's not really going to deliver the lead magnet in the way that you want it to. It's not going to send those follow up emails that are so important to keeping in touch with this person that has shown interest in your services or your products.

So those are definitely the two biggest things. There are just so many ways to simply automate.

Trudy Rankin: So in terms of the automations, you're saying that you start people off with putting a calendaring, a scheduling system in place, that enables the payment so that you're saving time around that.

Mindy Iannelli: Yes.

Trudy Rankin: And then, and I know that that whole free thing, it works for people who are just getting started in terms of free email systems,. They need free to start with. But when they're ready, when they get to the place where they're so busy that they need to automate, then you have to move to a paid one.

That's just a no-brainer. Cuz you need to be able to have automated email nurture systems in place set up and working.

For yourself, what are your top automations that you use that actually save you the most time?

Mindy Iannelli: The biggest one for me has been getting a proposal contract and invoicing system going, because before it was all very manual. And now I can create a proposal, a contract, invoice all in one. It goes out, it gets signed, it gets paid, and there's no follow ups. You've set up an automated follow-up email if they haven't signed the contract. If they haven't paid the invoice, oh, the invoice is 10 days late. Automatically an email goes out. Hey, I just wanted to remind you.

So those are a lot of things, instead of having to keep on your calendar and say, oh wait, I have to check on this person.

Another thing that I set up for all of my clients is all… it's not really an automation, but it's keeping track of when things expire. And all the different things that you need. Your domain name, your hosting, a lot of things go into spam or people don't check their emails or they don't realize that this email was important and then their domain name expires or they're posting. So I put those all on a calendar for them so that at least they see it on their calendar, they get the notification. Google Calendar will email you those notifications.

So little things like that are very helpful. And really very important because if you lose that domain name or your site goes down, those types of things. And sometimes, you might change your credit card and then the credit card number doesn't work and you don't realize that it didn't auto renew.

So those are a lot of headaches. And really just things that can save time. Those are priceless.

Trudy Rankin: Yeah. That is so true. Priceless is the right word. Because it's time that you never get back when you're sitting there muddling around, either only just realizing that you've lost access to something because you didn't renew something, and then everything's a panic.
You have to drop everything and fix it. First have to figure out how to fix it and then fix it. So that's very, very, very true.

I want to come back to that first automation that you mentioned, because I hadn't actually heard of that as an automation before and my ears went, Ooh, that sounds really interesting.

And that's the one where you're saying that you both have an automation that gets people to see the proposal, sign a proposal, which turns it into a contract, and then pay. How do you use a software for that or how does that work?

Mindy Iannelli: I use a software called Dubsado.

Trudy Rankin: Okay.

Mindy Iannelli: A funny name, but it's an awesome service.

Trudy Rankin: So, do you want to just talk a little bit more about it, because I've heard the name, but I've never really heard anybody talk about it.

Mindy Iannelli: Sure. Yeah, so you can create templates that you can start with for each client. So you don't have to like, recreate the wheel every time. And I'll have like just a standard contract for the different services. And you send the proposal out. If they click that, they accept the proposal, automatically, they'll be sent the contract, which I've already set up, and it has all of the payment information. There's going to be a down payment and then there'll be a 50% and then, whatever the terms are.

It lays that all out. So now when they've signed that, those payment terms carry over into the invoice. So now they've signed the contract. Now their down payment invoice is emailed out to them, and I haven't had to deal with that.

Trudy Rankin: That's really, really cool. Does it integrate with any of the big finance platforms like Xero or MYOB or QuickBooks?

Mindy Iannelli: I believe integrates with QuickBooks. I'm not really sure which other ones it does. It does integrate with Gmail. I use Google Workspace, so it integrates with that, which is great. So all the emails come from my email address, not a different email address. I can also see all of the emails related to that client.

So when I go to their project, I can see all their emails. I can see when they've last viewed the email that went out for their invoice to make sure that they actually have seen the invoice. And like I said, you can set up reminders. So if the invoice isn't paid by a certain date, you can just have an automatic reminder go out to them without having to go in there yourself.

Trudy Rankin: It sounds like a, an awesome piece of software. I'll have to check it out and I'll put a link to it in the show notes. So if people are interested in checking it out, they can.
So just thinking about the automation side of things and listening to what you've had to say, do you tend to teach people how to set up the automations or do you set up the automations for them yourself?

Mindy Iannelli: It depends on the client. Sometimes we will just find somebody to outsource it to depending on what software they ultimately wind up choosing. Cuz of course I'm not going to know every bit of software. I'll learn what software works for what. But different people want different things. So I love Hootsuite, I use Hootsuite for scheduling my social media.

There's also Buffer, which I was just teaching a client how to use. So yeah, there are a lot of different programs out there, and depending on how comfortable they are with tech, they may be fine. I could just give them a little tutorial and they can set it up or we can do it together and then sometimes we'll just outsource that part.

Trudy Rankin: That makes sense. That makes sense. And then thinking about all of the people that you've worked with and including yourself as well, what would you say would be the single most productive automation that could be put in place in terms of saving time? Like what, what automation actually saves the biggest chunk of time for most business owners that you work with or for yourself?

Mindy Iannelli: So automations definitely the contract and proposal and invoicing has saved me, oh my gosh, I can't even put it into hours. It's just been incredible. I would say really more than automations is just having systems. Like having a system for creating and sharing a blog post. That is a huge time saver.

I have actually a program that I use for myself and some clients, and I can create a month's, a year's worth of posts to go out for that one blog post. And then at the end of the year, it will send me an email and say, Hey, guess what? It's been a year. Maybe you should update this blog post.

See if you want to make changes to it, or if you want to start sending it out all over again. So that's been a really great system. It's a system and a tool. Overall, I really feel like systems are a lot more important than automations, but the most important thing to think about is to really look at what it is that you need to accomplish and you can really delete a lot of things.

So that's really the first step that we'll do is we'll look at what people are doing, and a lot of times you don't need to be doing all of that stuff. Just because Jane down the road is doing it and loves it, doesn't mean you need to do. So. Just go through and audit the things that you're doing, delete the things you don't, outsource what you can, and then automate and systematize.

But truthfully, before you outsource, it's best to work with somebody or work with the person that you've outsourced to, to systematize it and create an SOP so that if you need to take that back or if you need to give it to a new person, you can do it without having to learn it over two years. It's been two years since you did that cuz you outsourced it and now they left and you don't know how to do it.

So. Yeah. Creating those systems are really the biggest time saver over automations.

Trudy Rankin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. For sure. For sure. At least that's been certainly my experience, but it could be different for other people. But I think you're right. So just really quickly for our listeners, do you want to explain what an SOP is?

Mindy Iannelli: Yeah. So it's a standard operating procedure, so you can set them off in so many different ways. What I usually encourage my clients to do, if it's something that they've been doing and want to train somebody with to just create a video of them doing it. And maybe talking over, like use something like Loom.

So if you are going to post a blog, you'll have a system of how you want it formatted, what type of image, whether you're creating the images in Canva and putting the images in there. Then you have the social share images and the social share sharing information that you put into the blog post in the backend.

So all of this you can document. This is the step one, step two, step three, and what I usually suggest is to record your process and then give it to your VA or whoever you're handing it over to, and let them transcribe that. So now it's in a document and you can save the video, but you can also have the document and file them away.

Google Drive and Dropbox are great places to store those, store the originals, and then if anything changes, you go back in and you just make changes to the SOP.

Trudy Rankin: Oh, thank you for explaining that cuz it, it took me a little while, like ages ago when I was first getting started in big organization, people would talk about SOPs and I'm thinking, what's that? What's that? Standard Operating Procedures, it's an acronym for that and it's really, really helpful.

Mindy, that's been fantastic. There's a lot of really, really good advice in there. If people were interested in getting in touch with you or learning more about you, where would they go?

Mindy Iannelli: Great. Yes. I have a website. It's called complete online presence.com. And they can go on there, they can download my free productivity planner on there or they can just send me a message and we can just have a chat on Zoom and see what we can do to work together.

On Instagram I am online_roadmap and also on Twitter online_roadmap.

Trudy Rankin: Okay. No, thank you for that. I'll make sure I put those in the show notes so people can go and access those if they're interested. Mindy, it's been great having you on the podcast. Thank you so much.

Mindy Iannelli: Thank you so much, Trudy. It's been my pleasure.

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