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When Resources are Too Few

One of the biggest “problems” I hear about from people in businesses big and small is that they have too few resources to accomplish what they want.

That statement either directly follows or precedes a word I pretty much despise. That word is “can’t.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “we can’t” or “I can’t,” the word itself becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. 

Lack of resources may be a true statement but so what. It doesn’t mean you can’t, it just means you need to find a different way. Lack of resources has become the easy way out, the easy way to explain away a lack of initiative or creativity. 

Now, some people reading this are already getting mad. To you I would say stop looking for reasons why you can’t and start looking for ways that you can. If you have to get mad then don’t get mad at me for telling you the truth, get mad at yourself for not accepting it.

You indeed may not be able to accomplish every single thing you would like but never use that as an excuse for not accomplishing every single thing that you can. 

A lack of resources can make it harder to begin; when we don’t know how to get past a roadblock 3 miles down the road it can make it harder to take that first step. Take the first step anyway. The first step builds the momentum that can carry you past obstacles that you thought were impossible to pass. But you must take that first step for it to happen.

Make certain that “lack of resources” isn’t actually “lack of priorities” in disguise. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s likely that your ultimate success won’t be either. Do what you can do today and worry about what you can’t do tomorrow.

Priorities come from goals and objectives. If you don’t have goals, solid, realistic, written goals, then it’s likely you’ll find it nearly impossible to prioritize. So set goals. Develop a plan to reach those goals. Most importantly, implement the plan. 

When you as a leader hear “we don’t have enough…. your reply should be “enough for what.” Every person and every organization has enough to do something, that something may not be everything you want it to be but it will get you closer to it. 

Remember, more often than not limited progress comes from a lack of creativity and initiative, not a lack of resources. Do everything you can with everything you’ve got and you may just surprise yourself. 

But your success won’t be a surprise to me.

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First Things First

I teach a Time Management program. I probably shouldn’t since there is actually no such thing as time management. No one has ever managed time. Time does it’s own thing, relentlessly ticking off second after second regardless of what you may need to accomplish.

I hear people saying all the time that they don’t have enough time but the fact is they do. They have all the time in the world. No one who has ever lived has had more time than you have right now. They didn’t have less either.

1440 minutes a day is what each of us gets to accomplish what we will. No one has ever gotten more and barring the coolest tech not yet invented I doubt they ever will.

So time management is a bit of a misnomer, it’s probably better described as event management. The events that make up your day are what chews up your time. The people who seem to have more time are the ones who have mastered the mindset that everything they do during a day is an event. 

They see breakfast as an event, they see their morning stop at the coffee shop as an event. They see every phone call as an event and they know that when they have a day full of events they stop adding more. If they do add more they drop something else off their list of events.

Managing the events that make up your day teaches you a very important life lesson: no one has too little time, what they have is very poor prioritization skills.

People without prioritization skills end up doing less important things at the expense of more important things, often at the expense of the most important thing.

They do the easy thing, they do what they like, they do what they have always done. If any of those things happen to be the most important thing, the most productive thing, then that’s a happy coincidence. But successful people don’t rely on coincidence.

If you’re really going to be a good life event manager then you’re going to need to have a serious conversation with yourself. That conversation should be centered around your life goals, your values and your objectives. Most people who fail in doing the most important thing first do so simply because they don’t know what the most important thing is. 

Set goals, real goals. Goals that align with your values and principles. Write those goals down and make a plan to achieve them. You’ll be amazed at how much time you really have when pretty much everything you do gets you closer to one of those goals. 

Quit trying to manage time and start managing your life, that’s your true path to success.

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Eight Percent

Eight percent! That’s the percentage of people who make New Year’s resolutions that will keep them. 25% of people will keep them less than a week. 

I never recommend making resolutions in the first place, I am far more partial to setting actual goals. Goals are much more concrete but you must remember that if you’re setting true goals then you’ll need to invest some time to develop a plan for achieving them too.

But if you insist on making New Years resolutions at least give yourself a chance to keep them. 

Here’s how:

Make it simple. Many people make a long list of resolutions and when they fail at one the momentum, and motivation, to keep the others goes away. Make your resolutions small and easy to keep…. a little progress is better than no progress at all. 

For instance, don’t resolve to lose 25 pounds, resolve to leave a few bites on your plate at the end of your meals. Losing weight requires a life style change and those kind of changes seldom come from a simple decision or resolution. Leaving behind your lifelong membership in the clean plate club however can be much easier.

Be specific. This principle comes from the most effective goal setters. The more specific you are when stating your resolution the more likely you are to keep it. Specificity leads to an emotional attachment to your resolution and makes it easier to invest in…and keep.

Rather than say you’re going to “be a better person in 2016” state in very specific terms what behavior you will change or eliminate to make that happen. Don’t forget the simple part… a resolution to be more positive is too general to succeed and it’s also likely complicated. 

So resolve to smile more, make a conscious choice to smile often because it’s tough to be negative with a smile on your face.  Decide this very moment how many times a day you’re going to smile and then set an alarm in your smartphone to remind yourself. Every time that alarm goes off think of something that makes you smile. You’ll be surprised at how it can improve your attitude.

Share your resolution. Tell people who care about you that you made a resolution and ask them to help you keep it. Successful people are not afraid to ask for help, if you’re serious about your resolution then you’ll almost certainly need some help to keep it. 

Try and try again. Most people give up their resolution the first time they fail to keep it. If you fail to keep your resolution on a Monday then make it anew on Tuesday. If it was worth making once then it’s worth making again. If it’s a self-improvement resolution you’re better off keeping it half the time throughout the year than you are keeping it all the time for the first few days of the year. 

Eight percent is a relatively small percentage but being part of it can make a big difference for you in the new year. It’s never easy to succeed but if it’s truly worth it to you then you’ll do more than make a resolution, you’ll keep it too. 

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The Perils of Planning – Part One

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. – German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke.

People tell me all the time that they don’t plan because plans don’t work. They say “stuff” always comes up that keeps them from executing their plan. People interrupt them, things outside of their control go wrong or someone, likely a boss or customer throws a wrench into the plan. All of those things are the enemy of your plan.

As common as I know those things are they are also the very reason everyone needs a plan.

Success comes from planning!

Someone may achieve some level of success without a plan but it’s the kind of success that is nearly impossible to sustain. It’s short-lived because they are not certain how they achieved it and even less certain about how they will maintain it. 

Here’s a fact about planning: while plans often don’t succeed planning almost always does. The thought process that goes into developing a plan is always useful whether the plan succeeds or not…. if the planning process used was a good one. 

Below is the first half of an proven 8-step planning process that can help you find success, whether the plan succeeds or not.

Step one – Determine the “As-Is” or current situation. Before you can get to where you want to go you must know where you are. Many plans fail in this very first step because people don’t always take a realistic look at where they are at. They sugar-coat their issues, they believe they are farther along the path to their goals then they really are. Sometimes they have convinced themselves they are working hard enough to succeed when they are barely working at all. You MUST be brutally honest with yourself in this step, if you fail to develop an accurate picture of where you’re currently at you’ll find it very difficult to chart a course to ultimate success.

Step two – Determine the “Should-Be” or desired situation. This is a highly personal step, in this step you determine what success means to you. Many plans fail because people chase somebody else’s dream. When the inevitable bumps in the road show up we give up because we don’t want the dream in the first place. Don’t determine “a” desired situation, determine “your” desired situation. 

Step three – Determine the investment that you’re willing to make to achieve your goals. The common mistake people make in this step is thinking of investment solely in terms of money. The money is the easy part when compared to the physical and mental part. I can’t tell you how many dollars I’ve spent on fitness club memberships; writing the check was the easy part. I seldom was willing to invest the time required to use the club. When you think of your investment you must ask yourself if you’re willing to invest the time and effort required to succeed. DON’T FORGET, if you’re going to start doing something new you’ll likely have to stop doing something you’ve been doing. What are you willing to give up to get something else?

Step four – Set goals. Set short-term goals, perhaps as short as a day or a couple of weeks but no longer than a few months. Set medium-range goals, somewhere between 3 months and a year. Set long-range goals, from a year to 5 or 10 years. Some of the goals may be “slam dunk” goals but some should be stretch goals. Push yourself, if you easily achieve your goals it’s likely your not pushing yourself to your full potential. That said, do not set unrealistic goals, they demotivate you and can cause you to give up on your entire plan. 

That’s it for this post, we’ll look at the final 4 steps of the planning process in out next post. Those steps are the difference between a plan that could work and a plan that will work! 

 

Are You Truly Productive?

imageAre you truly productive? That’s a question you may want to ask yourself with some regularity. We… you, me and everybody else has the uncanny ability to trick ourselves into believing that we are incredibly productive when in fact we’re merely busy.

Busy and productive are two entirely different things!

Busy is about doing stuff. Productive is about doing stuff for a purpose. Busy is about looking like your accomplishing something. Productive is about actually accomplishing it. Busy is about wondering what happened to the hours in your day. Productive is about knowing exactly how you used your time.

Busy people hope for a productive day. Productive people plan a productive day.

Their plan is based on their goals and objectives. They determine what they will do and when they will do it based on priorities that come straight out of their goals. They strive to be doing the most productive thing possible at any given time.

Here’s they most amazing thing about highly productive people: they have more free time to do as they please. They earn this free time by not wasting time being busy. They simply get more done than very busy people.

The key is effective goal setting. Once you invest the time required to have meaningful goals in specific areas of your life you’re halfway to being productive. To finish the job you must develop a detailed plan around how you will achieve each goal.

Specificity is vital here. If you allow wiggle room you’ll use it to fall into old, busy looking habits.

Share your goals with someone to whom you truly matter, someone who will hold you accountable to your plan. This is where a coach or mentor can really make a difference. People who have a coach or mentor are generally more productive and more successful. That is not a coincidence. Coaches and mentors make a major difference in the lives of those they work with.

So don’t be so busy you never stop to ask yourself if what you’re doing is actually productive. That little gut check can be the difference between getting something accomplished and wondering why you can’t.

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The Limiting Nature of Goals

I am a big believer in the power of effective goal setting. I’m an even bigger believer in the power of effective goal achieving.

Research has shown that people with true goals and a specific plan for how to achieve their goals are far more likely to achieve success in life, however it is that they define success. They just “do” better in most every area of their lives.

Just to be clear, dreams are great but they are not the same as goals. Goals are written out, with a plan and a timeline for achieving them. If you’re going to write out your goals and NOT make a specific plan for how to achieve them…. well, there’s really no reason to write them out, they are more of a dream than a goal.

Goals, as helpful as they are however do not guarantee success. They can actually even limit our success. Within the past two weeks I’ve had a couple of high performing salespeople tell me they were way ahead of their plan. They were going to make their year “easy.”

They would be able to coast thorough their selling season and still make their year. The heart of their selling season hadn’t actually started yet and they were thinking coast mode already. That’s not good.

Maybe their goals were set too low in the first place, maybe they happened upon an expected sales windfall, maybe they just worked their butt off early in their year. But how they got so far ahead of their plan is irrelevant, their goal has become a limiter of their success.

Sometimes when we reach a goal we give ourselves the mistaken idea that we are somehow done, complete, finished, mission accomplished.

I’m all for taking a breath and relaxing a bit upon the achievement of a hard earned goal. But don’t just quit, don’t stop working, don’t stop improving. Set some new goals.

Your goals, true goals anyway, should be alive, they should grow and change with the circumstances of your life. My long-range goals are different than they were just a couple of years ago and even short-term goals should be adjusted if your situation warrants it.

Goals are intended to push us forward, to inspire and encourage us. Never let an achieved goal prevent you from achieving even more. Successful people continue trying to be even more successful, they continue to challenge themselves with ever more difficult goals.

The achievement of one goal should be the first step in the setting of another. Keep goals in front of you and and you’ll keep your success there too!

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Stop Before You Start

Geez, what happened to 2014? It went fast didn’t it? I hope it was a productive and prosperous year for you. I hope you kept all your resolutions and achieved all your goals. I hope!

Hope is nice but it’s no substitute for an actual plan.

If you’re like the vast majority of people, your resolutions were toast before you received your first paycheck in 2014. If you set goals your odds were somewhat better. If you set goals along with developing a plan for exactly how you would achieve them your odds of reaching them were actually pretty good.

If your plan included what you would stop doing in order to start doing something more productive then your odds of achieving your goals in 2014 were excellent.

Most of us are very busy people, we just don’t have much free time on our calendars. Yet when setting goals for the coming year we just add more to the mix. To be more successful we will start doing_____________. Go ahead and fill in the blank.

Do your goals for 2015 include starting new habits, starting new activities, starting new projects? Well that just isn’t realistic unless you first plan to stop doing something too.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve joined fitness clubs. I budgeted the money to pay for it, but not the time to use them. It was just one more thing that I didn’t have time to do. To be a bit more precise, it wasn’t that I didn’t have the time, I just didn’t make using the clubs a priority. To use them, I would have had to stop doing something else, I CHOOSE not to do that. It wasn’t really a concious choice but it was a choice just the same.

Unless you found yourself with an abundance of time in 2014 it’s foolish to add more to your “to-do” in 2015. Before you add anything new, take something off.

So let me suggest you begin your 2015 planning by making a “Stop-doing” list. A list of those “things” that you do which get you little or nothing in return. Make a concious choice about how you invest your time in 2015. Open up some time in your day to begin doing some new things that help you reach a goal.

Your success in 2015 might not determined by what you do; it may well be determined by what you don’t do any longer.