Put a Meeting-Free Day on Your Weekly Calendar

Put a Meeting-Free Day on Your Weekly Calendar

Featured, Focus

meetingsDay after day we get caught up in the minutia that we have to do. It’s difficult to rise above the din and focus on strategic projects. To clear some mental space and make progress on your larger goals, give yourself one meeting-free day each week. Block it off on your calendar and commit to leaving the whole day open for work. Use the time for tasks that require focus and high-level thinking, such as writing, strategic planning, or analysis.

To get the most out your meeting-free day, choose two to three discrete deliverables you’ll accomplish and record them in your calendar. Commit to moving these items — and only these items — forward. It might feel awkward at first to ignore or delay emails and daily tasks so you can focus on your planned project. But once you get in the groove and realize how great it feels to get so much done, it will get easier.

5 Tips For Achieving Your Goals

5 Tips For Achieving Your Goals

Featured, Focus, Improvement, Planning

ChecklistFocus is one of the key elements in building your success. A major part of that focus is having goals to focus on. Your goals provide you with both something to focus on and a way to measure your progress as you move forward. To get you started, here are five tips for setting and achieving goals to better aid your endeavors.

Be Specific and Set A Deadline: Vague goals are unattainable.  While the goal of “bringing in more sales” is an admirable, it is also lacking specificity.  Your goals need to be realistic and measurable, which means you need to be specific about your objectives.  How many sales are you aiming for? How do you intend to bring in more sales?  What specific steps do you need to do to accomplish this?  Once you establish specific goals, you need to assign them deadlines in order to ensure you see them through.

Develop A Plan Of Action: Even with specific goals, you still need to have a plan for achieving them.  Goals are a lot like trips — you cannot expect to reach your destination if you do not know what route to take.  For goals, that means creating an outline or punch list that breaks down your goals into bite-sized, manageable steps easily integrated into your daily work life.

Review Goals: Check your goals periodically. What have you done to achieve them? Talk this over with other people. If your goal is to be accomplished by a team, review it with them.  Reviewing goals allows everyone to get on the same page as their follow team members, which helps employees work more efficiently.

Incorporate Goals Into Life: Attaining your goals is a process, one that is reached gradually.  They will not fall into your lap already realized.  Instead, you must find ways to blend your everyday workload with strategies and tactics designed to achieve your goals in a concerted effort that simultaneously advances progress on your goals and improves your productivity.

Be Prepared For Changes: Life throws you curveballs.  You must accept that, because part of reaching your goals means being ready for those curveballs, being able to acclimate and being prepared to adjust your plan of action on the fly.  Goals are rarely, if ever, reached without a hitch.  Besides, adaptability is crucial in the business world.

You Are In The People Business

You Are In The People Business

Attitude and Mindset, Featured, Focus

No matter what your job is, no matter what industry you work in, you must remember one thing: you are in the people business. It is people who will buy from you. It is people that will talk about you. It is people that work with you. It is all about people.

It is easy to get caught up in your product or service. Unless you focus on people, it won’t matter. The best example of this is Google. Google is a tech company. They almost never have contact with their customers (have you ever tried to contact a person at Google?). However, their biggest successes are tools that make things easier for people. Think of the Google home page. You go there for search. All that is there is a search box and a logo. Simple. Now think of their failures. Google Wave, Google+, Google Glasses. They were all unappealing to people. The technology behind each of them was impressive, but they didn’t connect with people. Wave and Google+ were clearly designed by engineers for techies and did not have interfaces to appeal to the general public. Google Glasses users were actively made fun of. These products did not connect with people.

To be truly successful, you have to build relationships and interact with people. Focus on people and the rest will take care of itself.

Use Plans to Focus Yourself, Not Test Yourself

Use Plans to Focus Yourself, Not Test Yourself

Featured, Focus, Planning, Process

Planning out your week can help you navigate life gracefully — but overplanning your day-to-day tasks can make you neurotic and stressed. The best way to reap the benefits of daily and weekly planning is to take a more relaxed approach, and to understand the role spontaneity should play in your plans. Here’s how:

  • Be intentional but flexible. Decide in advance where you want to end up, but accept that your route may change along the way.
  • Redefine a 100% score. For most people, a great day is when they accomplish 60–70% of their goals. Think about a “perfect” day as one where you made the best choices possible, not one where you finished everything.
  • Don’t think of your plans as a test. If your self-worth depends on how accurately you implement your plans, you’re on shaky ground. Life is meant to be lived, not just “done.”
Yes, There Are Stupid Questions

Yes, There Are Stupid Questions

Communication, Featured, Focus

QuestionStudents are always told that there are no stupid questions. The idea is to encourage people to ask questions and learn more. There are stupid questions, though. You probably hear them every day, and may have asked them on occasion.

I’m talking about asking a question you have just been given the answer to. I don’t mean asking a question to clarify what you just heard. I am referring to asking the same question you just got the answer to because you weren’t listening.

Many of us spend more time thinking about what we are going to say rather than listening to what is being said to us. Focus on what you are being told. If you need a moment to formulate a response, take it after you have heard what is being said. If you need to clarify a point, repeat it and ask follow up questions. If you weren’t paying attention, come clean and apologize for being distracted. Asking for information you just received will keep people from having confidence in you.

Go Slow To Go Fast

Go Slow To Go Fast

Featured, Focus

It sounds like a paradox. You must go slow to go fast. It comes up in many disciplines. Race car drivers know that when entering a turn, they go faster when they slow down going into the turn. In martial arts you start by going slow in order to learn the moves and be able to do them fast. The same thing applies in your business.

Businesspeople tend to rush into things, get them done as quickly as possible, and rush off to the next task. This can lead to sloppy work, errors, and having to correct tasks and repeat them. This slows down the work. Worse, an error early in a project can lead to having to redo an entire project.

Take your time. Give each task the time it requires.

How Important Are Little Things? Ask Amazon.

How Important Are Little Things? Ask Amazon.

Featured, Focus

Recently Amazon Web Services (AWS) suffered a massive outage. For those of you not familiar with AWS, it is the server farm that keeps not just Amazon running, but Netflix and thousands of other web services. It was knocked out for most of a day, not by a hacker, but by a comma.

The service was knocked out by one misplace comma in hundreds of thousands of lines of code. This takes the old adage, “the devil is in the details,” to new heights. One comma caused the outage of multiple businesses costing not just what would have been earned but the time to bring the servers back up and the time to find one comma.

The lesson applies to any task. Paying attention to the details as you complete your tasks will save time and money. Even if it costs slightly more and takes a little longer at the time, avoiding the catastrophic consequences are well worth it.

Draw a Picture of Your Business Model

Draw a Picture of Your Business Model

Evaluate, Featured, Focus, Planning

CoachingGrowing companies face a predictable problem: Over time, the business becomes too complex for its own good. To untangle this complexity, forget over-engineered PowerPoint presentations or lengthy reports. Turn to pen and paper, and draw a picture of your business model. What does it look like at its most basic level? Make clear in your drawing what really matters to the business. Focus on the key outcomes, whether they’re in-store sales or revenue from secondary products. Then think through and write down what causes those things to happen. With this picture in front of your team, dive into the implications for what the organization should be focusing on — and, more important, what it could stop doing. If a unit can’t clearly show a link between what they do every day and the outcomes they hope to drive, resolve to eliminate it. The simplicity of a hand-drawn model can also help to separate out responsibilities, streamline communication, and determine decisions more quickly.

5 Tips For Setting And Achieving Goals

5 Tips For Setting And Achieving Goals

Featured, Focus

A mjor part of  focus is having goals you can focus on. Having a set of goals provides something to focus on as well as something to measure your progress against.  To get you started, here are five tips for setting and achieving goals to better aid your endeavors.

1. Be Specific, And Set A Deadline: Vague goals are unattainable.  While the goal of “bringing in more sales” is an admirable, it is also lacking specificity.  Your goals need to be realistic and measurable, which means you need to be specific about your objectives.  How many sales are you aiming for? How do you intend to bring in more sales?  What specific steps do you need to do to accomplish this?  Once you establish specific goals, you need to assign them deadlines in order to ensure you see them through.

2. Develop A Plan Of Action: Even with specific goals, you still need to have a plan for achieving them.  Goals are a lot like trips — you cannot expect to reach your destination if you do not know what route to take.  For goals, that means creating an outline or punch list that breaks down your goals into bite-sized, manageable steps easily integrated into your daily work life.

3. Review Goals: Check your goals periodically. What have you done to achieve them? Talk this over with other people. If your goal is to be accomplished by a team, review it with them.  Reviewing goals allows everyone to get on the same page as their follow team members, which helps employees work more efficiently.

4. Incorporate Goals Into Life: Attaining your goals is a process, one that is reached gradually.  They will not fall into your lap already realized.  Instead, you must find ways to blend your everyday workload with strategies and tactics designed to achieve your goals in a concerted effort that simultaneously advances progress on your goals and improves your productivity.

5. Be Prepared For Changes: Life throws you curveballs.  You must accept that, because part of reaching your goals means being ready for those curveballs, being able to acclimate and being prepared to adjust your plan of action on the fly.  Goals are rarely, if ever, reached without a hitch.  Besides, adaptability is crucial in the business world.

Narrow Your Focus

Narrow Your Focus

Featured, Focus, Process

What drives some companies to succeed while others languish? Why does Kmart struggle while Wal-Mart and Target thrive? What the former lacks — that the latter have nailed — is focus. Wal-Mart focuses on “always low prices.” Target caters to a similarly cost-conscious market but focuses more on image and design. You can’t be all things to all people, so you need to make decisions about how you will provide differentiated value for a specific set of customers. This requires deciding what your core competencies are.

Your core competencies determine what you are best at. By focusing your business around them, you provide a clearer picture of who you are and what sets you apart from your competitors. But this isn’t the only place that too many options are not a good thing.

When building operational processes, you need to simplify them as much as you can. If a process provides too many options for a set of circumstances, the process becomes inefficient and confusing. A+B=C is clear. A+B=X or Y or Z doesn’t provide a definitive answer. Your process should as straightforward as possible. Even when there is a choice, those choices must be limited. If a = yes do this, if a = no do that. It’s fine for the next step to also be a decision, but break down the options to their simplest form.