The new year is a perfect time, both physically and psychologically, to clean out your desk, head and bad habits, ready to start the new year afresh.
I have been asking Bureaux members, all of whom either run their own business or, as frequent business travellers, need to have great systems of self-discipline to keep setting and achieving new goals in their professional lives. Here are some of the top tips from Bureaux members on keeping themselves on track. Hopefully they’ll help you attack 2010 with increased fire power.
There’s nothing more depressing than last year’s rubbish following you into a new year. I do regular interval clear outs, but it’s essential for me to start the year on top of everything. For me, this means only having what I need on a daily basis in arm’s reach. The rest I archive and file in magazine racks in neat cupboards. This means emails, too.
Find an efficient workspace.
Working from home, distraction levels can be disastrous. I set aside a chunk of hours each week where I leave my home office to work. I go to Bureaux or sometimes just the local library, put a timer on myself and my efficiency is far greater, as I go there, get my stuff done and go home again. Procrastination nearly disappears when I work away from my usual space.
I’ve been squirming about social media for a couple of years now. In 2010, I’m getting on top of it and booking into a series of webinars. Taking a course on something you need to know as early in the new year as possible is energising and sets you on a positive path for the rest of the year.
Make policies to suit your business.
Want to make up some rules to suit you? Do it. It’s your business. There are a few things I hate, like long meetings (time suckers) and tiny budgets (they’re always the most demanding clients). It’s your business, so set meeting times with a start and finish. That way, clients can’t chew up your time to stroke their egos. Secondly, when people request a quote, sort the wheat from the chaff with an opener like, “We don’t take on budgets under ‘blah’.” That’s an easy way to start the budget conversation with someone who’s backward in coming forward with what they want to spend.
We all know generally women multi-task and men don’t, and that women tend to see the ability to multi-tasking as a sign of being a superior being. It’s actually an inefficient way of operating as you don’t focus on the task at hand and each time you jump from one activity to the next, you lose time as your brain has to stop and think, ‘Right, what was I doing again?’ before it gets moving again. Concentrate on one thing at a time. Shut your door, disable your email and put your phone on silent if need be.
Set a time and a date to do something and you’re more likely to do it.
Don’t just write a list of things you’ll do. Against each task allocate a specific time/date. People who allocate and write down a time and date deadline to achieve a task are more likely to do so than those who don’t. I read this somewhere, put it in practice and watched my procrastination plummet.
The first thing I have done in preparation for 2010 is to do a budget forecast — including new business opportunities and calculating resources required to service existing business. Now I know, at least for the first quarter, what I expect to bill and what I need to do with staff.
Hold people (including yourself) to account.
After each meeting I write up action items and distribute to those who said they’d do something to ensure it actually happens. It’s simple, not many people do it anymore and it works. It turns meetings from being just talk fests into action generators.
Step out of your comfort zone.
Learning something new or taking on a client in an area you’re not entirely confident in can open you up to a whole new world. This might mean pitching for a something bigger than you think you can chew, or it might just be upskilling. This year, I’m taking my head out of the sand and am going to force myself into twitterland and learn to use it as a business tool. God help me!
Remember the phone? Pick it up.
Don’t send an email. Pick up the phone and engage. So much time is wasted with back and forth emails, where tone and content can be misunderstood. A phone call might take a little more time initially, but can eliminate all the in-between lag time in sending and awaiting response.
Create action steps to help reach each goal.
Once you’ve set a goal, write a detailed plan of everything you need to do to achieve it. Make it like a map to success, follow the beacons and you’ll be there in no time. Do this before the project starts, when you’re fresh and your mind is clear. When projects get stressful, you’re less able to think clearly.
Look after your wellbeing.
Replace office nasties like instant coffee, milk and sugar with herbal teas or a healthier alternative. It’s so easy to reach for rubbish when you don’t want to write a report or because you think you ‘need it’. Stock the office with good stuff. Put good things in your body and you’ll get better things out of it. Go for a walk at lunch instead of eating at your desk. You will see the benefits.
Put time into your team.
Even if there are only two of you on board, take the time for morale-building exercises, like a lunch out or an excursion that’s personally fulfilling. The importance of feeling connected and in-step with team members can’t be underestimated.
Be ruthless with rubbish: Touch it once.
Any piece of paper you have, touch it once. Deal with it, file it or throw it. Don’t keep picking it up, reading it and thinking, ‘I’ll deal with it later.’ Massive time waster.
Be ruthless with email. Mark unwanted mail as junk so you don’t have to waste time emptying your inbox. Read your mails then delete or file them. Keep the inbox as empty as possible.
Rowena Murray is Director of Bureaux Business Lounge Australia.