You want to work less but you can’t imagine how, especially since you feel like you’re already behind. Begin by deciding how much you want to work. Set a target range of hours — for example, 45–50 hours per week — and use that number as a stopping point. If choosing a weekly range is overwhelming, start small by focusing on an incremental goal, like leaving 15 minutes earlier each day. Then determine the tasks you need to accomplish on a weekly and daily basis within this schedule to feel comfortable ending your workday on time. If you find you’re still working late, identify what’s hindering you: Too many meetings? Interruptions? Not enough resources? Address the specific problem that’s holding you back. At first, these changes to your schedule will likely feel uncomfortable, but after a few weeks you’ll become less emotionally resistant to the reduced hours.
Are you doing the things you want to do? Or the things you think you should? Sometimes, other people’s wishes tamp down our true desires for our jobs and careers. But dutifully fulfilling others’ expectations is unlikely to make you happy over the long run. To figure out what you’re truly passionate about, try this experiment:
- Identify one specific activity to examine, whether it’s something you’re unhappy with or something you want to grow and develop in.
- Take a quick inventory of your personal values and passions. What drives you? What would you love to do if there was nothing in your way?
- Compare your passions with the activity you’re examining. Is there any overlap between them? If not, it might be time to make a change — and to redirect where you focus your time and effort.
There are two ways to approach your goals: You can be flexible, and let the next steps evolve as you work toward your objective, or you can be rigid, and set specific actions to take. To decide which approach you should use, ask yourself how difficult your goal will be to achieve, how invested you are in achieving it, and what else you have on your plate. In situations where your goal is relatively simple and you’re highly motivated to achieve it, a flexible approach typically works best. In situations where the change required is difficult and you feel less engaged, lay out a firm sequence of steps. And be mindful of your track record. If you struggle with follow-through, or you find that there are simply too many priorities competing for your attention, you’ll need a rigid approach to pursuing your goal.
Does this sound familiar? You know you have a bad habit (maybe it’s interrupting others, or micromanaging), so you set out to change your ways. At first, you’re full of energy and enthusiasm, but as time goes on you slip back into your old behavior. If you really want to break your habit, try creating a “Yes List” to track and review your progress. Translate your goals into small, measurable tasks. For example, if you want to listen better, your task might be to attend one meeting a day without your computer and phone. Write your tasks on a checklist with a space to mark a daily Y for yes (if you met your goal) or N for no (if you didn’t). Pin your list somewhere visible and fill it out at the end of the day for the next few weeks. After tracking your habits, assess whether there are patterns in all those Y’s and N’s that need adjusting.
Some people thrive in the face of setbacks, while others seem unable to recover. For example, how would you respond to being laid off or not getting a promotion? Would regaining your confidence be fairly easy, or very difficult? According to the Harvard Business Review, Cultivating three traits can help you become the type of person who rebounds from these types of setbacks:
- Seeing reality clearly. Resilient people have down-to-earth views on the situations they face. They aren’t overly optimistic, and they don’t deny reality. Instead, they stare down even harrowing situations, viewing them as a way to train themselves in how to survive hardships.
- Finding meaning in what happens. People who bounce back devise constructs about their suffering to create some sort of meaning for themselves and others.
- Making do. Overcoming obstacles means having to improvise a solution to a problem when you don’t have what you want. Resilient people make the most of what they do have.
Running a small business usually means one or two people are responsible for almost everything. Despite not having to manage many people and multiple locations, there are some tools used by large corporations that should be used by small companies, even if they aren’t obvious.
Most small business owners don’t create organizational charts. “What’s the point?” they figure. “The organization is me.” Yet even as a solopreneur, the organizational chart is a useful tool. By creating one, you are defining every function that needs to be performed by your company. Even if the name in all the boxes on the chart is the same, or split between only a few people, it helps ensure that you are not missing any crucial responsibilities. It also sets you up for growth, in that it becomes easier to share responsibilities as the company grows, simply by bringing in new people for specific positions that you have already structured.
In a company like McDonalds, Wal-Mart or Apple, the day to day work is done at many locations. The strategic work of building the business, however, is done at the corporate office. This is where growth strategies, productivity initiatives, and new product development take place. No matter how small your business, you need a space to do that same work. If you have the room, set up a desk where the strategic work takes place. If you don’t have the room to create a separate space, use a additional “inbox” to differentiate the work. Do your strategic work at your local coffee shop instead of where you do the rest of your work. By having a physical separation, you create a distinction between working in your business and working on your business. That distinction can help your mindset adapt to the different responsibilities of each.
“Why would I need a training manual?” a solopreneur asks. “I’m the only one doing the work and I know what I’m doing.” The better you know your business, the greater the need for a training manual is. By creating a step-by-step manual that explains what you do and how you do it, it clarifies each step. When you do a job for an extended period of time, you become so used to doing it that steps blur together. As those steps blur, people tend to create shortcuts. As it all blurs together, and more shortcuts are taken, the more likely it becomes for the quality of the work to fall. Also, by keeping the steps clkearer, it becomes easier to locate and fix problems should they arise.
These tools help to keep your business running smoothly, whether you have hundreds of employees or it’s just you.
When faced with mounting distractions, stressful situations, and conditions outside your control, are you really capable of delivering your best? Most of us are not. To deliver our best, we need to be calm and centered. We need to have focus in order to provide customers with the service they desire.
How can we keep that focus and remain at the top of our game, despite mounting stress levels? One way is by bringing rituals into your workday. Rituals are about paying attention. If you take a moment to notice what you are about to do, you remind yourself to appreciate and focus on the task, rather than rush through it.
For example, when you sit down at your desk in the morning, pause before your turn on your computer or pick up the phone. Take a deep breath and spend a few moments thinking about what you wish to accomplish that day. Think about what is most important for you to do. This can help keep you on task so that even when distractions pile up, you can return to what is most important.
Another ritual is to clear your desk at the end of the day. Before rushing out, take the time to organize everything on your desktop. This helps bring closure to your day. As you organize, make a list of what needs to be done tomorrow. This gives you the opportunity to start your next day with purpose, rather than starting the day already feeling behind.
We hear it from people all the time, “I can’t do it.” Very often what they mean is they won’t. In the past year I have been told by various people that they can’t read more books, they can’t save more money, they can’t invest in their future. Each of them really meant they won’t. The person who “can’t” read more books had plenty of time to watch television. The people who said they “can’t” save or invest more money, had no problem finding the money to spend $5 or more on a cup of coffee every morning.
If something is important to you, you can find a way to do it. It starts with making little changes. If you can find ten minutes a day to read, it adds up. If you can put aside $1 a day, it adds up. You may not have the time to go to a gym, but you can squeeze in ten push-ups during the day.
Changes don’t have to be grand gestures. They can be small steps that lead to bigger gains. You just have to ask yourself, do you really mean can’t or do you mean won’t?
Most people complain of not having enough time. They rush through tasks so they can move on to the next thing. But this kind of haste creates more chaos than it avoids. Instead, approach every task in three parts: Prep-Do-Review. Spend a minute or two, or even a few seconds, thinking about what you’re going to do before you do it. Ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish and who should be involved. Then, do the task. Once completed, think about what you did and what happened. What did you learn? What will you do differently?
Besides preparation and evaluation, tasks should be split into small pieces. This article, for example, without a breakdown could be put on the to do list as “post blog entry.” There’s more to it than that, though. Broken down, it becomes “Choose topic, Write blog post, Post blog entry.” Breaking the task down means it doesn’t have to be done all at once. You can contemplate a topic while driving to a meeting. It also reminds you of the time involved in the project. It takes no time to post a blog entry, but it takes more time to write one. This gives you a better idea of what to expect and an easier time getting through the pieces.
Being thoughtful allows you to accomplish more with each task. You’ll find you have more control over the results.
In martial arts, practitioners are taught to aim through their target. The reason for this is that people tend to slow or halt their momentum as they approach a target. To hit a target with maximum power, you don’t stop your movement until you are past your target. The same principle applies to business.
In order to get the most out of your goals, aim past them. If you want five new customers, aim for ten. If you want $1 million in new revenue, aim for $1.5 million. By pushing through you are not only more likely to achieve your goal, but exceeding the goal leaves you in a better position for the next goal. Even if you don’t achieve the higher goal, you have achieved your actual goal.
The additional effort you put forth to raise the bar boosts your efficiency, enhances your productivity, and increases your momentum. Push through your goal and achieve more.