Last fall, my husband and I embarked on a lifestyle change. We had both gained weight (once again) and were fed up with repeating the yo-yo cycle of losing/gaining weight. Knowing how difficult it is stay on track long term, especially during busy times; we needed a strategic plan. The plan required fail-proof strong systems in place to overcome our obstacles and achieve our goal, once and for all.
The process of what we did and how, can be applied to anything you want to achieve in life or business. We had a history of weight loss/gain to learn from; we knew when and how we would slip, so our plan had to mitigate risks; organization was key.
Our story provides a case study on subject matter that many people can relate to. It outlines how to create a strategic plan and illuminates why you need systems in place, if you're serious about success. Discover the 5 steps we took to create our strategic plan, and the systems we used to support our eventual success.
Perspective. Sometimes when we're in the midst of a forest or trail our
vision is limited, we see only our immediate surroundings. Using our senses of
sight, sound, smell, touch of our hiking boots on the frozen ground and cold
breeze on our face provides information as to what kind of territory we're in,
any weather changes, and what's up ahead. Intuition and experience add insight
such as our state of preparedness for what's ahead or the need to change
direction, and if so, when.
And so it is with your business/goal/project. Ideally, you begin with a vision and create a mission on how you will achieve your goal.
You’ve considered all the essential elements to fulfill your mission: validated market needs; timing; economic, social or environmental variables; tools (training needs) and equipment (type of office, I.T. requirements; and available product/inventory/solutions). You’ve taken care to mitigate your risks. You’re ready; your market is ready; your people are ready, you launch. Sounds straight-forward, or is it?
We think we have become very efficient in how we manage our time, but then there are our blind spots.
I am a pragmatic and efficient individual, someone with extensive experience in time management who teaches others how to streamline processes to save time at work and improve the bottom line. I thought I followed the fundamental rules of time management very well. My blind spot; however, was that I neglected to include these guidelines in my volunteer/community work life.
The two time management rules I overlooked were:
I belong to a networking group that I co-founded a decade ago, but over the years my role has evolved to mentoring on an as-needed basis to a much younger executive board. Specifically, an enthusiastic manager has been developing her leadership skills ever since.
This year, circumstances changed and the manager of the group, took a job out of town. Without any leadership, and an all new board looking for guidance and direction, the responsibility was mine once again.
For the last few years, meetings were kept light and fun with the board of volunteers. This was a nice way to be; however, keeping things too casual sometimes meant that some important tasks would slip through the cracks. People would either forget their responsibilities or couldn't find the paperwork which outlined the process. Tasks were left undone, and our level of service fell.
A common but important mistake of new managers is that, "people will remember what you tell them." People won't remember much after your conversation, so you always need to write it down. Make it easy on them and you; discuss it first, then outline the process for easy reference in a shared file or drive. All things evolve, and paper gets outdated quickly and/or lost. As an operation grows, amend/adjust any improvements accordingly.
We have a wonderful new board of directors, and because I appreciate their gift of time, I needed to ensure that every person knows what is expected of them in their roles, and provide a convenient reference tool to ensure that all jobs get done on time and professionally.
Our first meeting was going to be heavy, so I had sent out an agenda days ahead of our meeting to allow an opportunity for others to review and add to the list. I estimated that it would take 90 minutes to get through the agenda and allow for open discussion. Surprisingly, because we had an agenda, it took half the time!
It had been years since we got through a meeting so efficiently before. This was an eye-opener for me. I thought I was as a very organized and astute person, but through "an epiphany" I realized that I have been attending these volunteer meetings for years without having a written agenda, and wasting precious time.
The manager may have had an agenda, but the rest of us didn't know what to expect. It's no wonder, people dropped the ball regularly and lost interest in what we were trying to do. I allowed this to happen, to rob me of my time, when I knew better. Talk about a blind spot!
After the success of the meeting, I immediately created an agenda template for future meetings. I'll send it out ahead of time, and give everyone a chance to review and add to it as needed. The agenda will be ready for our meeting, and as a result, so will each one of us.
Regardless of paid work or volunteer work; time is precious. It's high time you and I stop wasting our precious time, now and forever more!
"What gets written down gets done." Julie Morgenstern
Although this was a humbling experience, I'm grateful to have discovered this blind spot. It's opened my eyes to other things in my personal and social life that I've ignored or left unattended. It showcased my need to spend more time in reflection and in living mindfully.
My to-do list now includes tasks from my personal and community life. Never again, will I keep these worlds separate from work, just as my physical and mental health are equally important in living a balanced life.
Lastly, I remembered a story a retired friend of mine told me, how a friend talked him into joining a business venture with him. The owner of the company wanted to arrange a meeting with the new recruits at a faraway city. My friend, an experienced senior manager, kept asking (later insisting) on having an agenda to understand what they were going to talk about before he agreed to meet. Against his better judgement, his friend talked him into going, saying that the owner doesn't really do agendas. Can you guess what happened? They got nothing accomplished and it was a waste of time and money.
In conclusion, there are many ways to improve one's time management. This article highlights two basic time management rules to live by, that if followed in all areas of your life, will save you much time (and pain).
The moral of the story is that all of us, even experienced business people make errors in judgement or have blind spots. When this happens, don't punish yourself too much. Accept the lesson learned, and make a commitment to always listen to your inner guide.
There is an art to having good conversations; and when you're in business trying to sell your services, this skill becomes ultra-important. The reason is obvious, time is limited and out of respect for everyone's busy schedules, you need to get it right every time.
For instance, if you are calling someone important for the first time (a cold call) you may not get another chance with them anytime soon if your first impression is not ideal. Furthermore, it's been estimated that it takes 10-30x more energy to fix a mistake than to prevent it in the first place; and for a busy person like you, this would be the worst case scenario that you need to avoid. Do it right, however, and the rewards can be extremely gratifying.
Doing it right also means that it has to be authentic for you; it has to reflect who you are as a person and what brand of service you are offering to your ideal customer.
In the book, "How to Write a Lot", Paul Silvia states that the key to successful writing is to develop a habit of writing on a schedule and then writing during this time, each and every time - no excuses. It's a simple formula that may be applied for achieving anything.
If we are what we repeatedly do, then our habits (good or bad) define who we are.
Anyone who has ever tried to overcome a bad habit knows that you must repeatedly refuse a previous indulgence (or inaction) when tempted to do what you've often done (or not done) in the past. To help you succeed, we recommend replacing the old habit with a new and improved action instead, which supports your goal of true change.
One of the challenges of working from a home office is overcoming periods of procrastination or lack of motivation. This challenge often arises upon returning to the office after attending an off-site networking event. Faced without immediate demands for your time by people or departments such as in external office environments, it can be difficult to retrack.
Furthermore, an external office has fewer non-work distractions, and being surrounded by people who are in work mode or rely on you to help them do their job, makes retracking much easier.
This truth led me to consider external office work environment situations when retracking can be also a challenge. For instance, returning to work after a long vacation to face a large, unpleasant or difficult project. Add to that, the tendency to want perfection on any project, invites procrastination, and if not checked, can lead to a debilitating pace.