What do you do that sets you up for success? Over the years, I have tried all manner of time management and performance tools and techniques. The things successful people do are so simple that anyone can do them.
1) Set Yourself Up For Success on Friday
Successful people set themselves up for success on Friday (or whenever the end of the working week is). Before leaving the office and settling into the weekend, my Managing Director, John Moore, always advises taking a few moments to set up next week’s success. To make sure this happens, he has it as a standing meeting with himself scheduled in his calendar.
2) Do NOT Make ‘To Do’ Lists
During the meeting with himself, John thinks about the results that he needs to achieve next week. He does this, not by making a ‘to do’ list for next week, but by making a list of the results he needs to achieve. When I first joined Exponential Training, many years ago now, during a coaching session I have had with John, he explained that people will always have more things to add to their ‘to do’ list than they will ever have time to complete. He explained that this can often lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Instead, he suggested I should focus on the results I need to achieve.
3) Make a List of Results
Making a list of ‘results’ helps me to cut through to actions that will really make a difference. For me it is the difference between being busy ‘getting things done’ and being effective. The simple act of having to stop, think and to write down next week’s results, immediately focuses my thinking. It switches my thought process from ‘what do I have to do next week’ to ‘how to can I make the biggest impact’?
4) Let Your Subconscious Do the Work
Have you ever noticed the more you focus on looking for a solution to a problem, the harder it is to come up with ideas, yet when you stop thinking about the problem an idea will just pop into your head? I guess that is where the expression ‘sleep on it’ comes from. I find that making a list of the results I need to achieve automatically triggers my brain to start working on solutions. But rather than working on the solutions there and then, I switch off. I enjoy my weekend and almost as if by magic, over the weekend my subconscious mind has worked on the problem so that on Monday morning I have a pretty good solution and plan.
5) Notice and Celebrate Success
In another coaching session I had with John, he explained the importance of recognising and celebrating successes. At the start of every Friday meeting with himself, he starts by reflecting on his week’s results and successes and things he has learned from what did and did not work. Automatically, the brain goes into a ‘positive state’, making the process more engaging, fun and rewarding. This is in stark contrast to the ‘negative state’ that is often triggered when making a long, daunting list of uninspiring ‘things to do’.
6) Ask GREAT Questions?
Successful people ask great questions. By asking better questions, they get better answers. I ask myself questions like: “How am I doing?” and “Am I getting closer to my result or am I getting further away?”. I make sure I am getting feedback – feedback from people, feedback from reports and feedback from my team. I use The Success Formula.
7) What Do You Think?
This one follows on from asking great questions and is as simple as asking other people what they think. In my experience everyone has an opinion and if asked they are only too happy to share it with you. The trick is to ask the right people. Usually, the right people are closest to the problem you are working on and/or most affected by it – this might be a colleague, a customer or another team member. Remember you do not have to act on their feedback and ideas, but they might just come up with some gems.
8) Let the System Do Your Work
When I shop online for my groceries, I do not start my shopping list from scratch every week. The online ordering system remembers what I have previously had and part builds my shopping list for me, saving me time and having to think about what I need.
Successful people build this automation principle into the way they work. They convert repetitive tasks and activities into automated processes. At Exponential Training, everyone knows we have a Communication & Business (C&B) meeting on the first Friday of the month; John knows he has a standing meeting with himself on Friday afternoons; I know that our CRM system is automatically updated when someone enquires on our website. Letting systems do the work, frees up time for more creative, higher value added work.
9) Take a ‘Time-out’
In another coaching session with John, he introduced me to the ‘law of diminishing marginal returns at work’. In a nutshell, the longer you work, the less productive you become. Successful people take ‘time-out’. Just like a basketball coach will call a ‘time-out’ with his team to re-group and to change the game plan, so too should you. A time-out might be a 10 minute break in a meeting where little or no progress is being made; it could be a couple of days leave to re-charge your batteries; it could be leaving the problem today and coming back to it tomorrow when you have slept on it and allowed your subconscious mind to work it’s magic. It could, of course, be a meeting with yourself on Friday to set yourself up for success.