The same old, same old is the same as becoming stagnant. Said differently: don’t be a stick in the mud! Try to do something new a couple times a year to take you out of your comfort zone. What it is depends on you.
Maybe it’s trying something new, like hiking or Pilates. Maybe it’s attending a class or conference on a subject that interests you but has nothing to do with your career, which will allow you to meet people outside of your usual circles. There’s an endless amount of possibilities, as long as it’s something you don’t normally do.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is a way to engage in self-discovery, keep life interesting, and expand your interests, horizons, contacts, etc. These are the type of actions that make you and your life significantly more interesting and valuable.
This seems so obvious, yet most of us don’t. You might; I know I generally don’t. I try, but so much to do and so little time…
I read something that said adults generally need at least seven hours of sleep per night until the age of 60, after which most people need more. It seems like that should be easy, but it’s not always so simple. When you are busy at work (including the time spent commuting), household projects, children, and extracurricular activities like volunteer work or sports leagues, who has the time for sleep? Oh yeah, and we should also fit in exercising and socializing. Time is precious, but so is taking care of yourself.
I also read it helps to try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Yes, even on the weekends, which sounds bad if you get up early during the week, like me. Supposedly, it’s better for your sleep cycles. I know when I keep the same schedule, I wake up early without an alarm clock—my body becomes used to the schedule. But if I don’t get enough sleep, I inevitably have a morning when I sleep later than I planned.
Living tired makes everything harder, whether it’s work or fun activities. If you can regulate and normalize your sleep patterns and timing, it’ll likely help you feel better and be more productive. Sweet dreams.
It is the first week of January. We all are back at work trying to recover from the holidays as the new year kicks into high gear out of the gate. Many of you likely made New Year’s resolutions. It could be one of the standards such as losing a certain amount of weight, starting an exercise program, drinking less soda, eating less candy, etc. Maybe it is something different and more personal to you. Or maybe it is work related such as meeting new professional contacts, listening better to others, or having more balance in your life.
The problem is resolutions are hard to keep. How many times have you had a resolution and it last for a week? Or maybe it lasted a month? Odds are you were not keeping the resolution by the end of that year (assuming it was something that would take a year to accomplish or was a permanent change you were trying to make to a behavior or habit).
If you made a New Year’s resolution, I propose you try something new. Have an action plan on how to stay on task to meet your resolution. To do so, make your resolution a SMART goal. I know many of you have heard this acronym before, and maybe even have set SMART goals in the past.
For those that haven’t, it stands for:
Resolutions generally fail because trying to do something or stop doing something by sheer force of will is a recipe to fail. If your resolution doesn’t fit within the SMART goal parameters, revise it so that it does – you will have a much better chance of success.
Know that your SMART goal/resolution may be achievable in less than year – remember one element is the time you think it will take to reach your goal. If you meet your resolution, come up with a new SMART goal. It doesn’t matter if it is January 1 or May 22. You should constantly look to improve yourself, your business, your life – well, you get the idea. Try it and see what happens.
Most of you remember when “the usual” was sending anything and everything by mail. People do things for you, oftentimes going out of their way, all the time. Do you acknowledge these people? If not, why not? If so, how?
If someone does something meaningful, you need to let them know. I understand not all people are doing things to receive thanks, or even comfortable with praise at all. But you know when someone deserves your gratitude, and an email or a text may not be the most appropriate way to express it; they can be low-impact and quickly forgotten. Thanking someone in person may work well, especially if you know you’ll see the person. Other times, you won’t be seeing the person for a while and that’s when you should go with the handwritten letter: a high-impact personal touch that won’t be forgotten in a digital age.
I will admit I don’t handwrite thank yous as much as I should, but I try. I was recently in New York and my aunt and uncle, who live northeast of Philadelphia, took a train to Manhattan to go to dinner with me. That was above and beyond given the amount of time spent traveling in one day, not to mention, they’re not exactly young. When I got back to Phoenix the next week, I bought a card and sent them a heartfelt personal note of thanks. People appreciate this sort of thoughtfulness.
The point is to try and let people know when you appreciate them or their actions, and you don’t have to buy a card. You can write a letter on lined paper, computer paper, or sticky notes. It doesn’t matter how you do it and won’t to the recipient, who will be touched because you took the time to personally pen your thanks and acknowledge what they’ve done for you.
To me, it’s like volunteering for a non-profit. Even though the point is doing something for others, it makes you feel good. Try it and see.
I know you may be thinking I want to be seen as different by my peers. But showing people you’re different will go a long way to proving you are better. For instance, I’ve written about my firm’s intentional culture known as the JW Way because it makes us different than most other law firms.
What I’ve found is that most potential clients and referral sources are attracted to the JW Way and what it says about my firm. We understand that the JW Way may not be for every client, but that just means they should be working with another firm or a different attorney.
So think about differentiates you from your competitors; it’s also likely to be what makes you better. Letting people know why you’re different is more intriguing than telling someone you are better. The former is interesting and the latter is cocky. How do you want to come across? And it goes without saying that speaking about your company’s values will come off better than slagging your competitors.
Sometimes it is what you know, despite the universally repeated cliché “everything is who you know, not what you know.” Who you know is important, but what are you going to speak about with the people you know or meet? What you know, of course. The more you know, the more topics you can speak intelligently on with those you know and meet. This is important in the real world.
And what should you read? The answer is what you like. It helps if that includes being up on the news, at least generally. Read the headlines, whether from the New York Times, msn.com, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc. If you read articles that interest you and skim the other headlines and articles generally, it will allow you to participate in more conversations with others.
You may not be a sports person, but skimming most news sources last week would have told you the Houston Astros won the World Series. Even knowing this bit of information can help you make your way into a conversation with someone you want to meet at an event. Of course, it will be up to you to turn the conversation to where you would like it to go, or at least to a subject on which you know more than the headline and are more comfortable.
Reading other things also is helpful. It can be fiction or non-fiction, which hopefully provides you with books you can recommend to others. Maybe you will find one that impacts you deeply enough you should be sending copies to certain people you know, including clients or business partners. Unexpected gratuitous gifts are a good way to be remembered by others who you hope keep you in mind.
Reading is the equivalent of investing in yourself. Aren’t you worth the time and investment?
You know this intuitively. If each day you have to do the same task(s), figuring out the best time of day, time frame and way to do those tasks will help you be more productive. The more you get done, likely the less stress you will have, which is good for you and everyone you deal with.
For instance, when I first get into my office each morning I address my email inbox to determine who I need to respond to, what projects I need to work on and go about adding these items to my to do list. I do this before starting any project and before getting on the phone because if I wait until later in the day, my email tends to get out of hand and matters I should be dealing with may roll into the next day. When that happens, I am not as responsive as I want to be and reflects badly on me and my firm. That clearly is not something I want happening.
Of course you have to be able to bend your routine at times. Sometimes I have something on my calendar or an emergency situation for a client and I have to alter my routine. In doing so, I always know that I am going to have to deal with it later, which can mean, in my case, continuing to work through email that evening or early the next morning while still at home. I highly value work-life balance, but I also value my sanity upon arriving at the office in the morning…
You may not deal with a high level of email in your business, but there are other tasks that certainly can be put into the category or routine or repetitive. Think about how you deal with these. Is it the same each day? If not, be honest with yourself about whether the way you deal with it wastes time and makes you less productive.
I suggest picking one task to turn into a routine. Try for four weeks and see how it goes. This will take discipline and focus. If you can create a routine for and stick with it for even one repetitive task, it will help you and your business.
Successful people want others to succeed while unsuccessful people secretly hope others fail. I read something like this a while back and it stuck with me. The point is we are all in it together. Rarely does someone succeed alone and even when it appears they did, they probably had someone (or a number of people) helping them along the way.
Athletes have coaches. And so do many business people and professionals. Musicians rarely are self-taught. The same is true for business people and professionals. Most of us were students who had teachers, whether in school, an apprenticeship, etc. You get the idea; it is rough going on your own and makes it much more likely you will make serious mistakes teachers and mentors can help you avoid.
I have been lucky enough to have formal and informal mentors along my road. Without them it would have taken me much longer to achieve many things I have personally and professionally. Or maybe I would have missed opportunities because I didn’t even know they were there, or not made it as far as I have.
So leave your ego at the door and help people in your life succeed. Not only will it probably end up benefiting you at some point (but you can’t count on that and it’s not the reason to do it), but it will make you feel good helping others. Plus, success really is contagious. Try it and see.
Listen to what people ask you and answer their questions directly. Too many people either do not listen fully to the person they are speaking with or ignore what is being asked. In almost all situations, conversations will go better, and definitely take less time, if the person answering answers the questions instead of going off based on their own agenda.
I know many of you are thinking “this does not apply to all circumstances.” True. But it applies to most. When people sidestep a question and start rambling on it usually looks like the person is being defensive, has something to hide or both. And I admit that some questions are confusing, but if you do not understand the question, you should say so and ask the person to ask again until you do.
In my world, this comes up in court. Judges ask questions and attorneys usually respond in whatever way they believe will help their client and case. Sometimes they remember to come back at the end and address the actual question, but many times they do not. Speak with any judge and you will learn one of their biggest pet peeves is attorneys not just answering what the judge has asked. As with other situations, it makes judges question that attorney’s position because they can’t or won’t answer the question directly, instead addressing their own agenda, i.e. it is looked at as being defensive and coming from a point of weakness.
So how do you want to be perceived by those you deal with professionally and personally? I am sure you want to be believed and not thought of as defensive or hiding the ball. If so, remember that part of listening fully is to directly answer questions you are asked.
- Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. ~ A.A. Milne
Yes, I just quoted the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. And he is right, which is both obvious and apparent, especially to those of us trying to stay organized. Let’s be honest, it is a constant struggle. You have your business life and your personal life. Some people keep separate calendars for each. Others are like me and keep one calendar for everything lest they miss anything.
And what works for me to stay organized and focused may not work for you, and vice versa. At home, I am having this challenge with my perpetually disorganized twelve year old daughter. At this point in time she fits the old saying “she would lose her head if it wasn’t attached.” In trying to advise her on organization, I have been speaking with her about what I do, and what others have told me they do, because I do not know what will work for her.
So, if you are not naturally organized, do you have a system? For instance, I use calendar reminders that are synced across my work and personal computers and devices, as well as using hand-written “to do” lists or lists I email to myself. What about you? Do you use a different method or combination of methods? Maybe certain software or an app?
As with most things, you should take time every so often to assess your state of organization….or lack thereof. Maybe you are reading this and realizing that your system or methods are failing you and you really are not as organized as you thought. If that is the case, you need to take action because disorganization leads to wasted time and lost money or opportunity. It could be forgetting to connect with the great lead you met last night at an event. Or it could be it causes you to have less time to spend with your family. Whatever it is in your life, disorganization is equivalent to loss.
Don’t let this happen to you. Take time to assess your level of organization. It might be working fine, or maybe it needs a tweak. Or maybe it needs an overhaul. If so, do it sooner than later because it will save you time and lead to time better spent personally and professionally.
And if you think you have a great system or method, please share it with me.