Here’s the scenario…as you read the next few lines, ask yourself, “What would I do?”
It’s 4:35 pm, on a Thursday afternoon. It’s not raining or snowing outside, but there’s still a winter chill in the air. Your email inbox notification just blinked, there’s a file on your desk you haven’t looked at all day, and two of your kids have school and sports events this weekend you want to attend. You have to decide what to do and what doesn’t get done.
Then, suddenly, your intuition guides you to review your calendar for the next month, and you realize you have a 3-day event you’ll be leaving town for, and you’re just not ready…
Well, what do you think? Does that sound familiar? Maybe your particular details are different, but here’s my bottom-line question: “Do you feel like you’re running in real time, all the time?”
The advice you’ll read in this post may not fix things tonight for tomorrow, BUT, you’ll understand ideas you can use starting tonight so that 6-12 months from now, you have fewer Thursdays like that one!
Have you read any books or articles by Peter Drucker? Born in 1909, he was an author, business leader, and executive coach and MANY years ago he wrote that as the technological revolution gained traction more and more of us would face a workplace problem no one had to deal with in previous generations. He explained to us that our problems wouldn’t be limited to managing resources such as raw supplies or services such as providing counsel and advice.
Our BIGGEST problem – he correctly predicted – would be that we’d have to manage our selves!
(He was with us from November 19, 1909, until November 11, 2005. My favorite writing of his was first published in 1999 by Harvard Business Review; it’s titled, “Managing Oneself.” If you search the Internet, you’ll see it out there; read it when you have time!)
The purpose of you reading that scenario at the start of this post was to push you to re-think how you manage yourself.
Not your time. Not your money. Not your staff. Not even your workspace.
How do YOU do YOU?
Back to the scenario. Let’s say you leave the office and get home on that day. As you walk into your home, someone asks, “How was your day?” What would be your response? What would you say? What would you focus on? Oh, and what would you ignore?
These are all great questions to ask, as you start a renewed process of managing yourself differently.
There are three things you can do that help you manage yourself, focus on your priorities, and get the right things done. No, you may not get ALL your email done today, attend ALL your family events this month, or achieve ALL your goals this year. But, given enough dedication to these three tactics, and you will slowly-but-surely begin to free up mental (and physical) space to be more engaged, more productive and more effective.
1. VISUALIZE SUCCESS
Glass half empty…glass half full… it doesn’t much matter. Either way, there is a vessel holding liquid. The more important question to ask is, “What’s the purpose of the water? What’s the purpose of the glass?”
Whether or not your email inbox, task list, and/or calendar is overflowing with information isn’t what’s stressing you out. So, what is? What you’re focusing on. When you focus on “everything you have to do, and how you don’t have enough time,” your mind starts down a path. When you go item by item, answering the question, “How will finishing/doing/engaging with this make my life and/or work easier and/or better?” then everything changes.
Right now, look at your to-do list and find a biggie. A project you’re not up-to-date on. An event you’re not prepared for. Something you are already running behind on…
Got it? Good. Now, close your eyes and breath in and out – slowly and deeply – at least three times. Done? Good. Next, hold an image of that “thing.” Whether you see it, you think about it, or you just have a feeling… answer this question:
“What would success look like?”
Your challenge is to spend 60 seconds (you can do this, I promise!) imagining a successful result. See the people involved, see the project complete, see the end in your mind.
When you’re done, open your eyes and return to your calendar and your to-do list. Add things. Add people to talk to. Add items to review. Add videos to watch, and help to ask for, and errands to run. The more you capture – on the front side – the better.
2. PLAN THE PROCESS
Here’s the second question to ask, “30 days from today, what will I wish I’d started working on sooner?” I love this question; it helps me focus on long-term success and shorter-term deadlines. Time is the constant, everything else is changing all around us, but not the tick-tock of the clock.
In our book, Get Momentum: How to Start When You’re Stuck, my co-author and I teach our readers to implement two planning tools. First is “The 30/30 Rule.” Spend 30 minutes a day working on, thinking about, or discussing a project or event that’s 30 (or more) days out. Maybe you’ve got a business trip you’re taking next month, or you’re volunteering at an event later this quarter. Perhaps you’re mentoring and sponsoring one of your staff members as they are up for a promotion at the end of the year.
Open your calendar and skip forward at least four weeks (the more, the better!) and identify SOMEthing there that, when you see it you think, “Oh, wow, I need to start working on that sooner than later!”
And that leads me to the second tool, what we call milestones. The question to ask, “What three subprojects can I finish so that I complete the big project on time and successfully?” This approach of breaking the big thing into smaller things serves two purposes:
- One, you create a slight dose of positive pressure on yourself by re-focusing on the end state, the result that you’re after. I’ve found that to divide a project into three distinct milestones; you need to spend a little extra time thinking about what — exactly — you want to accomplish.
- Second, you’ll relieve that positive pressure by identifying the first third, second third and third third parts of the project you can accomplish.
3. ACKNOWLEDGE AND EMPOWER
I’m a firm believer in teamwork and collaboration. When Jodi and I launched the GET MOMENTUM Leadership Academy back in 2012, we took on the motto, “We’re smarter together.”
We all work together; now is the time to acknowledge that we don’t get anything done by ourselves.
If ANYthing, the only thing we do by ourselves is convincing ourselves that we can save time, money, and resources by asking for help sooner. Yes, that means you need to be both transparent and vulnerable.
Whether you work in a one-person office, or alongside a team of dozens (or hundreds!), you will be able to get a LOT more done, a LOT faster when you serve as the “Acknowledgment Monitor.” The key here is to stop thinking, and start doing. So, here’s a three-step process you can use starting today:
- Step 1: Sit comfortably in front of your computer or paper-based calendar and review the last week or so at work (and in life!).
- Step 2: Identify someone who helped you or contributed to the mission you are fulfilling. For a few moments, bring to mind what they did, how they did it, and where they made everything just a little bit better. See the details in your mind, review their contribution as if you were watching a sports game replay of the event.
- Step 3: Write a hand-written card. Not just “Thank You,” but a real, detailed, heartfelt note. At the minimum, write out what you saw them do, how it contributed to the mission, and how you feel working alongside them as you all “do that thing you do.” Do this once a week for the next five weeks and see what happens.
As my mom told me when I was young, “You catch more bears with honey…” (Not that I ever wanted to “catch” a bear! But, I think you get the point.)
Wherever you are and whatever you’re working on, I wish you the best. Use these techniques – one, or two, or all three of them – and start creating more productive and engaging days.
You’ve got this!