We are 15 days into 2012 – how is your year going so far? Have you had an opportunity to create new plans and goals for the New Year? Before you sit down and develop your new plans – take a look at your last year. It is great to start a new year with a clean slate – but even greater if you don’t relive last year’s mistakes. Just like that old song, “Make new friends but keep the old…one is silver and the other is gold…” we can carry over things that worked and use the momentum of our accomplishments – to help us catapult our 2012! Here are 3 helpful strategies to review your last year:
- Celebrate your Successes. What goals did you accomplish? What do you think was instrumental in your achieving them? What did you learn about yourself or your processes that you can take into the New Year?
- Learn from what went wrong. Perhaps there are some goals from last year that you did not achieve. Why? What could have been helpful for you in achieving these? What can you do differently in the New Year?
- Offer thanks to those who helped you. How many people helped you achieve your goals last year? Have you taken the time to express your gratitude to those who supported you – and without them – you couldn’t have succeeded.
Here’s to a great new year! The next 3 Blog entries will contain some strategies that will help you create goals and plans that will increase your chances of success.
Years ago, I picked up a small book entitled, “Simplify your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things that Really Matter by Elaine St. James (Hyperion, 1994). This book contains practical ways to simplify our lives in our household, Life style, finances, job, health, personal life with a concluding chapter on “hard core simplicity.” I believe the philosophy of simplify can help us live out with the “one thing at a time” attitude because as we get make our lives less complicated and cluttered, we can be freed up for innovation, creativity, and enthusiasm. If we’ve stopped and analyzed the “why” of the task, and stepped back and seen the task in light of how this task fits in with our organizations or team’s goals, we can simplify. Simplify means that we can make our lives less cluttered and complicated by eliminating things that we just do out of habit, boredom (they call this busy work) or because “that is just the way we’ve always done this.” Author Elaine St. James in her chapter on “Work Less and Enjoy It More” cut back on her workday by 10 percent by scheduling her day to end an hour earlier. What she realized is so applicable to us. In her words, “I found that I had fallen into the trap of believing that I had to do everything today, or at the very least, by tomorrow, so I was constantly working under unnecessary pressure, which is no fun.” She learned how to prioritize calls, set up more realistic time-frames for project completion dates, and build time (for interruptions) in her schedule.
I hope that these 3 S’s have made you reflect upon your current work habits and I encourage you to STEP, STEP BACK, and SIMPLIFY your work and home life so as Elaine St. James says, “not to deny yourself the things you want, but to free yourself from the things you don’t want. “
The 2nd “S” in the 3 S’s of a “One thing at a time” mentality is Step Back. Step back means that we step back from the task that we are working on and see the task in light of larger team goals or business goals. We can discover that this task is best served by another staff member – or we may find that this task, though we enjoy it – will not significantly increase revenue or lead to new business. Step back also refers to stepping back from the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality and see if there is another way that we can get the same result by a more streamlined method. Is there a way that this function can be automated? With technology, the way we used to do things is drastically improved. Are we making effective use of our human resources? Is every person in our team adding value by the tasks they are doing? Perhaps this task is a perfect growth opportunity for a team member. I may need to invest some time on the front end, but what a gift for me and the team if this person could get this function accomplished AND expand their skill set at the same time? I say this is a win-win!
Step back from your task – look at the activity in light of your team’s larger mission or goals and think about other ways this task can be accomplished. Perhaps other people? Perhaps using technology? Or perhaps this task doesn’t need to be done!
My next Blog posting will focus on the 3rd S – Simplify!
How many times I forget this! When I feel bombarded with a myriad of things to do, courses of action I could take, or just a time crunch – I need to remind myself to: stop, step back, and simplify my life by focusing on one thing. Studies show that multi tasking is not effective and productive. Whether in the workplace or in our personal lives, these “3 S’s” can help you radically reduce your stress and increase your focus.
STOP- I was coaching a woman on her resume and she mentioned what she asks her daughter on a consistent basis: “Why are you doing this?” This question has stuck with me and I ask this same question to myself. When I do take the time to reflect on my answer, I usually find out that deep down below the surface, the answers to the question “Why are you doing that?’ revolve around the following: it feels good to check it off my list, I don’t actually feel like accomplishing on my goals, it takes too long, I can’t get started…”
Stop encourages us to ask the “why” question. We may find that the answer makes sense and we continue with that task. But more often than not, we may find ourselves switching directions and working on a higher priority item that will move our work lives, careers, home lives or relationship going forward.
Stay tuned for my next Blog Posting will focus on the 2nd S – “Step Back”
James Thurber said “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” (James Thurber was an American author and cartoonist and was best known for his cartoons and short stories published in The New Yorkermagazine). What a reminder to all of us that it is not necessarily the solutions but the questions that lead to inner discovery, awareness, and change. Indeed, this same philosophy undergirds my coaching philosophy – every client is seen as a fully capable and whole person with unique insights, dreams, and goals. My job as a coach is to help that person discover his or her potential by asking powerful questions that can lead to true transformation – and growth. Here is a sample of some of the kinds of questions that I use in my coaching practice:
- What does it mean for you to live in authenticity?
- What barriers do you anticipate?
- What is your biggest concern about….
- What does team mean to you?
- Of all the things on your list, which one do you want to tackle today?
Consider using a question the next time a staff member asks you for help on a problem or issue in the workplace. Asking a question provides the opportunity for individuals to come up with the answer and they will more likely be bought into implementing the action since they are the ones who came up with the answer! Coaching your staff in this way also develops them and relieves you of the pressure of finding all the solutions!
It is hard to believe that 2011 is almost over! Are you feeling satisfied with what you have accomplished this last year? I know, why am I bringing up accomplishing goals in the midst of holiday busyness? Well, it could be the perfect opportunity to go back to the beginning of the year goals and congratulate yourself on all that you have successfully accomplished – in any and all areas of your life – work, personal, physical, financial, spiritual, and relational. And then, find one actionable item you can check off your list that will make a significant difference to your job, business, and life. You have 2 weeks to do it!
Recently, our worship leader at church shared about her trip to Zimbabwe and how grateful the women she met were. Did these dear women have a lot? No! In fact, having three meals a day is not option for many people living in some of the poorest regions of the world. However, these women were content with what they had -whatever that was.
So, in the midst of our accomplishing our goals – it is important that we don’t lose sight of being grateful for what we have.
And so, though this blog posting is on goals – it is a perfect time of year to reflect upon the blessings. I love what Charles Dickens said “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
I don’t know about you, but I have a challenge in starting projects that I don’t find exciting. Especially if it involves projects that (in my mind) will take a long time. When I am writing, I can think about the countless things that I can get done quickly (and check it off my list). So writing can get pushed to the back burner. Or the same holds true for my getting motivated to work on my bookkeeping and financial statements. It is so hard to get myself seated down to actually begin the project and then when I start – I can get off course with so many distractions – emails, phone calls, people, and other priorities! Perhaps I am my worst distraction!
Here’s a simple idea. Your kitchen timer can be used as your accountability buddy. Set the timer for 15 minutes or 20 minutes (or 30 minutes) and tell yourself that you will do this particular task or project until the timer goes off. What inevitably happens is that you will be so “into” the project that you will work another 30 minutes (or longer!). And soon you’ll be done!
Is it really that safe anyway?
In John Ortberg’s book entitled, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat, he quotes Ellen Guder who wrote, “You can live on bland food so as to avoid an ulcer, drink no tea, coffee, or other stimulants in the name of health, go to bed early, stay away from night life, avoid all controversial subjects so as never to give offense, mind your own business, avoid involvement in other people’s problems, spend money only on necessities and save all you can. You can still break your neck in the bath tub, and it will serve you right.”
Sometimes not stepping out, trying something different, or making a change is more dangerous than doing nothing!
If you prefer, you can follow cat advice and take a long nap.
Fear – Finding Easy Allowances Readily
Most of us have heard of the FEAR Acronym – FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. I have created a new acronym FEAR – Finding Easy Allowances Readily. In the January 25th entry, I suggested that living in fear can give us the excuse for not doing something different. Here are some examples of how this philosophy can play out in the marketplace:
In the Real Estate Market – We can’t sell a house in this market – so let’s just stay put.
In Marketing – No use doing marketing now, we don’t have the funds for it and we probably won’t be seeing revenues hit the levels we had in the past. We better cut back on marketing and advertising.
In Small Business – We need to do all the administrative functions ourselves. We have no idea how long we can hold onto this company.
In our Life – Why pursue that new job training/education? No one will hire a new graduate in this economy.
Do you see how these negative statements and our focus on fear – can lead us to tighten the hatches, get in a “defensive” model, and draw back in our lives? I encourage you to take a deeper look at decisions you are making and ask yourself – are you using your lack of growth in your career, in your small business, in you as a person, as an excuse for your dismal performance? Or are you using it as the motivation to do things differently? This is the time in our lives and business, and even our relationships, to put our heads together, brainstorm, and come up with creative responses and solutions. And just because our last year did not meet our targets, it doesn’t mean that this year we can’t hit or exceed them.
And by the way – Did you know that the lions who roar the most loudly in the jungle are the old, toothless ones!?
One of the ways that we can tell that people are living with a fear mentality is that they complain. Let’s face it – human nature being the way it is – we tend to want to blame anything else and anyone else, except ourselves. Personally, I can find myself resorting to complaining about things. Why? Most of the time it is because I feel helpless and powerless to change things and I allow fear to hold me back from taking action. Whether it is being in an unhealthy relationship with a significant other, working with a dysfunctional boss, or dealing with an abusive client, we always have choices. And yet rather than do something, it is easier to complain. Have you said or heard others say statements like the following?
“I hate my job. I can’t stand my boss. The commute is driving me crazy.”
“Honey, when can we get a bigger house?”
“I wish I could do what I really want to do.”
Action point for today: Take a count. How many times a day are you complaining? And how many times a day are you engaged in tackling problems and brainstorming solutions?
Today – I’m 4 to 1. I better start talking solutions!