One thing I hear a lot is, "how do you find the time." I hear this a lot when I tell people that, in addition to my (very full) full-time job, and being a wife and mom, I run and market an Etsy shop.
This is not about "having it all," because we all know that’s a fantasy. But I have learned some strategies for working smarter while building my brand. Here are a few ways to follow your passion when you’re short on time but long on inspiration:
1. Do what you can, when you can
Think about the space you have in your day. Maybe it's 15 minutes on your lunch break. Maybe it’s a few minutes while riding the train to work. Maybe it's the half-hour when your kid is at swimming lessons.
Now try to imagine what you can do during that time. Can you answer emails, or post to social media? Can you plan out your next project, or return a few phone calls? Build routines that help you tap into those little windows of time in a strategic, organized way. I keep a list of little things that I can do when I have a bit of down time, like commenting on other blogs or sharing my products on Pinterest, that might otherwise fall by the wayside.
Now, I'm not saying you should spend every waking moment focused on your project. You deserve down time, too. But 10 minutes roughing out a blog post may be more energizing than aimlessly browsing Facebook.
2. Quit (or pause) what isn't working
When you're trying to launch a brand or build your following, staying on top of multiple different social media accounts can feel totally overwhelming. So don’t panic — just take it one step at a time.
If you’re just getting started with social media, take a look at what others in your niche are saying, and try imagine yourself joining the conversation. If it doesn't feel like the right fit, don’t force it.
If you're struggling to craft the right tweet, or your Instagram photos always fall flat, it's OK to let that platform go — maybe for now, maybe forever. Your audience isn't just on one platform; they're everywhere. You'll be able to connect with them much more easily when you find a space where you can be your best, authentic self.
3. Look before you leap
When I'm excited about something, whether it’s re-branding, launching a new product line or collaborating with someone, I want to do everything right now. And while that enthusiasm can be a great catalyst, it can also lead to rookie mistakes — which can be a huge waste of your precious time.
Give yourself permission to spend time on blogs and social media sites in your field, and pay close attention to what others are doing. Ask yourself, “What do I like about this? What does this person do well?” Inspiration is out there if you’re open to it — which leads me to my next point:
4. Say "I can" instead of "I can't"
It's way too easy to compare yourself to others, and feel frustrated or discouraged. It's the trap of thinking, "Well, if I could afford to hire models, my products would look terrific too!" But that kind of thinking is only a waste of time. So focus instead on what you can do.
For years, I used a terrible old iPhone 4S to take product photos. They were grainy, and the color balance wasn’t great. That was my reality until I could afford a better camera. So I worked hard to improve my photos, seeking out the best possible light, learning more about my photo editing software and focusing on composition. If you keep sight of what’s possible, you won’t get stuck pining for the things that aren’t yet within your reach.
5. See what sticks
If you just launched a cooking blog, but you suddenly have the urge to do a style post, I say go for it. Give yourself permission to experiment — to see what your audience responds to, and also to see what feels right for you.
While building a consistent brand is important, you may have to feel your way a bit to get there — and that’s OK. When I started blogging, I tried everything from giveaways to DIY and craft posts, just to see what worked. Taking an idea from concept to reality requires some flexibility.
6. Be smart about stats
Stats can make you crazy, and can gobble up a lot of time as you sit there staring at the numbers, wondering why no one liked your post from last Tuesday. But I am a serious stats lover. Give me a good data set, and I'm like a kid with a new toy. The key is to ignore the numbers, and focus on the trends.
My blog stats showed me that my most popular posts by far were interviews, and refashion posts. Rather than getting hung up on the individual numbers, I can use this information to guide my content going forward. I won’t tie myself in knots to chase stats, but on the other hand, it’s exciting to share things that I know my readers will respond to.
7. Ride those coattails
I've joined linkups and fashion challenges, interviewed other bloggers, reached out to local Etsy sellers and joined a blogging network. These no-cost strategies got my brand out to new people while also helping me create a network of like-minded people in my niche, who happen to also be super awesome.
When I started blogging, I had an "if you build it, they will come" mentality. Which is pretty hilarious, given how much competition there is for people’s time and attention. Since then, I've learned that partnering with others in my field who are more well established is a much better strategy — and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.
We all wish we could have more time in our days. But with these seven smart strategies, you can get the most out of the little time you have.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.