March holds all kinds of madness. Conference and kids’ spring breaks are on the agenda for many clients. In a recent mastermind meeting, updates were full of the impact of interruptions to routine.
This group has had great success creating routines and habits that help them get more done in less time. For the most part, we’re talking about the practice of planning ahead, checking in with the plan, and following it. Habits like spending 15 minutes at the end of a day to prepare for the next day, updating calendars throughout the day, recording activities ongoing, and setting boundaries around time-wasting activities.
But for some reason, when the work location changed, these routines fell apart. And, as we head to the end of the first quarter, with folks racing to meet their first quarter goals- the loss of momentum was what you might call “a big deal”.
Here’s what the group came up with:
- Be realistic. If you’re at a conference, your job is to get the content you registered for, and to network and meet people. If you stay home with a child, even if she’s old enough that she doesn’t “need” you, you won’t get as much done. There will be interruptions.
- Create a new routine. If you have your goals on a white board in your office, and you use them throughout the day to check priorities and keep focus, that won’t work when you aren’t in your office. You need to write them on the calendar that goes with you, or on notes that you can post in your work area at home. If you’re in a conference, you might want to have your schedule on paper, because it can be difficult to quickly check an electronic tool.
- Prepare clients and associates. Check in with them before your time out of the office, let them know you will be gone. Give them an emergency way to reach you, give them a specific time of day or frequency when you’ll be checking messages, but let them know you are out of the office.
- If you have a buffer, be sure to use it. An answering service can explain that you’re away and ask if a matter is urgent. An assistant, virtual or otherwise, can screen your email messages.
- Don’t schedule yourself on your first day back in the office. Catch up on messages, return calls, review your calendar and make sure you’re prepared for a gangbuster week.
As usual, not rocket science. Take the time to think about how your work life will be disrupted, and plan for it. Better to plan accurately and actually accomplish what you plan than to expect something you just can’t deliver.
The Boy Scouts have it right. Be prepared. Life is short. Struggle is optional.
You must have seen the story about the nurse who would not administer CPR to the dying woman last week. Maybe you heard the 911 call recording. Excruciating. If the 911 operator could have reached through the phone to give aid, she clearly would have. The person making the 911 call, the nurse- did not. She cited policy. It was against policy to provide CPR. The woman died. Otherwise, none of us might have heard the story.
Are you thinking you’d never go along with a rule that kept you from doing what you knew to be right? Never just accept something as a rule or guideline, if it made no sense to you? We do it all the time. The consequences aren’t as immediately obvious or clearly lethal as in the CPR example, that’s what makes it difficult to track.
The rules I’m talking about are things like:
- I must be available to my clients at all times….even if they would be just as happy knowing I’ll get back to them in a specific time period.
- I have to do everything myself…even if it means I have to work all the time.
- “Good enough” is a terrible standard…even if it means the work is done sooner and the client thinks it’s perfect as it is.
- My clients want to talk to me…even though their main priority is to have their question answered as soon as possible, whether it’s you or an assistant or associate who does so.
- Client work takes precedence over marketing, billing, or other firm tasks…even if the deadlines and expectations would allow you to work on your firm during work hours.
- If I can’t commit to working out for an hour four times a week I might as well not even start…even though twenty minutes whenever you can would be better than nothing at all.
What does this have to do with pace? Everything. The notion of pace is that you need to keep your pace, and improve it when you can, in order to reach your goals. It’s about consistency and persistence. If your pace is hampered by rules or beliefs that aren’t true, if you’re allowing yourself to maintain it when you could stretch and improve your pace- then you’re not going to create the results you want. So, when you come across a constraint that just doesn’t make sense in the real world, question it.
Break the rules that need breaking. The life you save might just be your own!
Recently, I was delighted to receive this email autoresponder:
Thank you! Your email is received, and I will reply within the next 24 hours.
I’ve found that I serve my clients better when I can check email once a day, so I appreciate your patience while I devote my full attention to one client at a time.
Of course, if this is an urgent matter, please call my office at [nnn-nnn-nnnn]. I will return your call promptly.
I’ve changed it a bit and I’d add a thank you- but you get the idea. If you can’t handle the thought of checking email once- then make it twice. Block time on your calendar, too- or you won’t be much better off than if you let your email interrupt you all day long.
Be brave- try it! Let me know what happens. Bet the good outweighs the bad.
Oh no. No I couldn’t? Could I?
YES. YES you can.
You won’t travel far if you’re stuck in your head. This is a JOURNEY you’re on! Pace is key. You have clients to serve, life to live, lots to learn and to do. When you change your pace, do it intentionally– as a break, a vacation, a celebration. Squelch all urges to rethink, second guess, regret, wish this, if only that, and especially, fear and resist. That’s the whole lizard brain story, and we know you don’t want to listen to a lizard in your head.
Action starts with your thoughts. The thoughts are part of the process, but make sure they lead to and support action. It all fits with Successfully Solo’s main concept: do more of what matters and nothing that doesn’t.
Get out of your head. Breathe. Keep the pace you choose, the one that takes you on the adventure of your own design. Life is short. It’s is happening right now, all around you. Be in the moment. Not in your head.
What could you do if you stopped worrying and trusted your judgement, and moved forward faster?
Time waits for no one. So, wherever you can crash the schedule, get things done sooner, with less elapsed time- you free time up. It’s that simple. It pays to fail fast.
You know I’m all about measuring what matters. It’s a fact, you will fail. (Or you’ll be doing nothing, in which case you have all the time you need.) So catch it as early as you can. See what is working, determine success or failure and then take action. Learn. Add/change/delete.
Your pace will be impacted by your failures, just as it is by your successes. Cut the cycle time from trial to success or trial to failure, and you’ll get more benefit from the successes and less drag from the failures.
Not getting it? Think about athletes- you’ve seen world champions fall or stumble, whether it’s in practices or while competing. The pros absorb it and recover so fast that it seems impossible. That’s what I want for you.
Again- if you are successful, you will have failures. They’re a good thing because it means you’re trying to be more successful. Celebrate failures. But make sure you fail as fast as you can!