Blah Blah Blah…Blog

For 34 days I’ve had writer’s block. There are so many interesting things happening around me that it isn’t that I lack for good topics to focus my attention on, but for some reason getting the words onto the page just didn’t happen. Maybe the learning for me (and maybe you) is that sometimes we need to slow down or jump off the daily business treadmill, in order to recharge, refocus and re-evaluate our priorities. Like every other busy business professional, I find it hard sometimes to keep the blogging momentum going, so I can totally relate to those of you who tell me you just “don’t have time” to do it. Believe me, I get it. And, frankly, I’m a little jealous sometimes that several of my blogging hero’s – Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Paul Castain – manage to post pretty much daily despite the fact that they have heavily scheduled business days themselves.

Barb, what’s up with you, girl? That’s the question I have been asking myself off and on over the past several weeks. I finally think that I know why I’ve had writers block. What I realize is that it is all about choosing, sticking to, AND scheduling our priorities.

Ban the To Do List

Colleague Kent Gregoire, who heads up Responsibility Centered Leadership and The Alternative Board of Metro Atlanta is also the thought leader behind Living in the Now®: The Overwhelm Solution, and Kent has convinced me that “to do” lists are a waste of time, and more importantly, they often cause more problems than they solve…like adding stress to your life that is truly unnecessary. Kent advocates that we banish our “to do” lists forevermore in favor of a more effective way to get those important priorities completed.

Crazy notion, right? Banning the “to do” list. I can hear you now…”Are they nuts? If I don’t have a get it done list, how will I accomplish anything?” Believe me, I understand the reaction. We have been trained as a society to make “lists” of items to work on each day and check off as we complete them. But in my own experience, I find that often there are items on the list that just seem to get transferred from one daily list to another. Come on’ be honest…this happens to you too, doesn’t it? What Kent shared with me is an approach that is both simple and utterly powerful in what it can do for you mentally and emotionally when you apply the technique to daily life.

It Is About Completeness

If you need to accomplish a particular task…could be going to the grocery store, writing that blog post, following up sales calls or washing your car, you need to “schedule it”. In other words, don’t write it on a list. Immediately block the time on your calendar to complete the action and move on. When the scheduled time comes, complete whatever it is and move on knowing that you never have to worry about it again.

I’m starting to get in a groove with the approach, and I already feel calmer about my day. Mental traffic about what I haven’t gotten done or angst about pending things that must happen is not walking me up in the early hours of the morning. Everything that matters and is important is “scheduled in time”, as Kent says. As I get better at the process, I will schedule things in advance or at the same time that I’m scheduling another activity, perhaps a sales meeting. I already know there will be follow up, so why not schedule the follow up time on the calendar at the moment that I book my sales meeting?

A list of to do items that remain separated from your calendar means there is a really good chance that lots of other daily, mindless, non-critical stuff will impede your ability to finish what you had intended. I had blogging on my list each day, but I didn’t make a formal commitment to block the time on my calendar each day to get it done. So guess what…it just didn’t happen.

Give it a try.

The next time you say to yourself, I need to get XYZ done, stop what you are doing, and evaluate your priorities, your currently scheduled activities and then “schedule” the appointment on your calendar to complete the action instead of writing it on a list.

The end result from taking this approach is that you’ll feel less stressed. You will also be living your life in the present – living now – instead of worrying about what you should have done or still need to do. I hope you’ll give it a go, and if you do, I’d love to hear from you.


Social Selling Isn’t An Add-On

In the rush, rush, rush that defines most businesses today, we are trained to cram every possible activity we can onto our calendars. The fine art of saying “no” is a masterful technique in and of itself, IF, you can pull it off that is. Often, we are at the mercy of others who have requests that demand our time, which we cannot ignore. Still, with all of this so-called multi-tasking going on, I wonder, are we really any more effective?

For years, we have been seduced into thinking that multi-tasking is a good thing. Sales people are given atta-boys for their ability to juggle multiple priorities at once. Sales managers praise their people for being able to take customer calls, do email and text all while taking a potty break. Nothing is more disconcerting than listening to someone take a business call from the bathroom stall next to you by the way. The reinforcement of this multi-tasking mania has now led to people texting and answering email on their iPhones and Blackberry’s while driving! Absolute madness.

Quite an industry has sprung up around this notion of “managing time”. The myth is that multi-tasking isn’t managing time, it is only wasting it. An August 2009 research report from Stanford University shows that so-called high achieving multi-taskers are only frying their brain. Guru’s far more experienced than me will tell you that time management has always been a myth. All of us have the same 24 hours in the day. The #1 key to social selling success comes from a single minded focus on the “right” priorities. Your objective is to focus on the one thing - the big rock - that you complete before moving on to the next. This is especially important as you integrate social media into your sales process. The idea is to save time not waste it!

As I talk to groups about social media and how to integrate it into their sales/networking approach, I always ask, “What are your top two or three concerns about using social media?” Predictably, someone always says, “I don’t have the time.” That attitude springs from the belief that you are “adding on” to what you already do now. In reality, you need to let something else go. Everyone has time wasters disguised as results driven activities hidden somewhere on their calendar. Many are hidden in plain sight.

Try this exercise. Write down how many face-to-face networking events you attended in the past month. Even if it’s 1 per week, you probably spent at least 3 hours when you include drive time plus the event time itself. That’s 12 hours - more than a full business day each month. Now consider your hourly billable rate and ask yourself if you secured enough clients from those activities to make it worth it. The answer - based on experience and the answers I receive from every group that I poll - will likely be a resounding no! Not even close. That’s why the effective use of social networking tools like LinkedIn is such a beautiful thing. Done right, you spend “less time” actually getting better results.

How we view time is in direct proportion to our attitude about time. Your peers, your competitors and your friends don’t have any more hours in the day than you do. It is all about how you use them. If you ever want to invest in finding out how you prioritize, I encourage you to check out our Time Mastery assessment. For as little as $31 and the investment of a 10-15 minutes, you will discover just how well you work with your daily 24 hour allotment.

Time management is a myth. How you choose to spend your time moment to moment is what counts!

Is it Time to Just Say NO?

Most of us are busy, but undisciplined. We are active, but not focused. We are moving, but not always in the right direction. -Jack Canfield

In the things they never told me before I became an entrepreneur file is how important it is to be a good steward of time. For most of us, we start our careers working for other people who have a schedule they want us to adhere too. Even though I lived in the world of sales where there is certainly more flexibility than in your typical 8-5 “go to the office” routine, there was still structure to the day. People expected things of me at specific times. It made it easier to say no to the other stuff. After all, it might not be wise to risk the paycheck. Why then do we develop amnesia in this area when we become independent business owners?

Entrepreneur = Rainmaker

Guess what? You won’t initially have much of a salary, if any, when you first start out. Unless of course you are one of the lucky ones whose company received a million dollar cash infusion from the local venture capitalist down the street. For most of us though, WE ARE the paycheck. Every moment of our time is either billable or not. And not isn’t a good thing. You need to remember that your corporate brethren aren’t thinking this way, because if they waste time here and there - they still get their paycheck. You, however, do not.

Saying NO is hard to do.

Though it was fairly easy when I was on the corporate clock to say no to requests that would interfere with my other business obligations, what is so different now? The answer will vary depending on the person, but here are 5 reasons why I think we stumble.

  1. Ego. It’s nice to feel in demand. When you are out on your own, it’s easy to feel a little disconnected and unrecognized.
  2. We feel obligated. After all, someone else introduced us and suggested that the two of us meet. It is even tougher if the connector is your paying client.
  3. People won’t like us. In our desire to “be nice”, we are driven to accommodate the wants of others forgetting that our own goals and priorities need to take center stage.
  4. Activity is confused with effectiveness. Lots of activity doesn’t magically lead to revenue. It is the right kind of activity that does.
  5. We aren’t thinking like real business owners yet. Real business owners know that their time really is money!

After the lunch meeting today that wasn’t, I was once more reminded of how important it is to think thoughtfully about what gets locked in on your calendar. An hour of my day was wasted waiting to meet someone who never called, sent a text message or an email to say he couldn’t meet with me after all. The eventual response to the email I’d sent while waiting in the restaurant was…”My apologies. I had a packed morning and did not check my calendar. Thank you for your understanding.” Maybe my response needs to be…”Here’s the bill for my time today. Thank YOU for understanding.”