How much of your business day is spent focused on the things that really matter?
Almost a decade ago, I came across the thinking of Dan Sullivan (also known as The Strategic Coach). Those who know the infamous Strategic Coach Program speak about it with a reverence unlike any other type of mastermind-like initiative that I have come across. I have friends (who are successful beyond most of our wildest imaginations) that attribute their success directly to their involvement in Sullivan’s program. While I never took the formal course, I have devoured countless hours of audio programs and books from The Strategic Coach. One concept, Unique Ability, is something I still think about frequently. In the formative days of Twist Image, I spent a good deal of time attempting to self-define my own unique abilities and, in doing so, ensuring that I was aligned with people (either business partners, team members or clients) who had their own sets of unique abilities that were the traits and skills that I lacked. In its simplest form, I wanted to ensure that I could spend my time working on my unique abilities while others were spending their time doing the same thing. Of course, it’s not perfect and we all find ourselves doing tasks and projects that we have to trudge through, but consciously knowing when you’re doing the work that you were meant to do (or not doing it) is core to better understanding if you are running your best day possible rather than having the day run you.
Step 1: What is your unique ability? How much time are you focused on it during the work day?
My personal assistant is a total lifesaver. That’s a lie. I don’t have a personal assistant, EA or anything of the like. I tend to my schedule so that my business day can be best maneuvered. This surprises many people, but a successful day won’t happen unless you plan for it. If I control my schedule (and this even includes booking flights for business trips), I control my day. More social meetings happen prior to work (nothing quite like a good/early networking breakfast) or at lunch (to break up the day with something a little more social). Most news consumption, emails and inspiration comes in the morning hours as well, and I tend to write at night. When I am not being booked into client meetings during the day, I will often schedule myself into blocks of time for things like business development, new presentation development and more. I save phone calls for drives to and from the office or in-between meetings on the go. While my day-to-day is never strictly regimented or formulaic, there is a flow that I have created (and that I control) to ensure that the maximum amount of time when I am feeling most business inspired (usually between 7:30 am – 5:30 pm) is being optimized as much as possible.
Step 2: Control your schedule. Control your day.
Beyond the schedule, you have to run, hustle (shout-out to Gary Vaynerchuk who practically owns a trademark on that term) and ship (shout-out to Seth Godin) as much as you can with each and every passing moment. While this could me misconstrued as the ramblings of a workaholic, it is not. Those that know me (and my way of thinking) know how I feel about work/life balance (and, in case you don’t, this might help: The End Of Work-Life Balance or check out my latest book, CTRL ALT Delete). If we are going to spend time away from our loved ones for work, we have to make those moments count. Letting the days, weeks, months and years drift away is a waste. Your ability to accumulate any sense of wealth happens within a very short time span (usually you early thirties to late forties). We also can’t predict the future or what will come, so a sense of urgency is critical. I love how Steven Pressfield calls anything that takes us away from doing the work that we were meant to do the "resistance" (for more on that, check out his amazing book, The War Of Art). Just today, he wrote an article titled, Managing Your Day, that stated: "You have to run your day. You can’t let your day run you. You must roll out of bed each morning with an unshakeable focus and intention. Your novel, your start-up, your movie. That’s your day. That’s why you’re here. You can’t yield to distractions and temptations. You must be like the Blues Brothers. You’re on a mission from God. Who is in charge of your day? You are!" As much as I attempt to be in charge of my day, this was a great wake-up call.
Step 3: Put your butt where your heart wants to be.
That was one of the great lines that Pressfield told Oprah in a recent interview. So many people have aspirations, dreams and other unfilled thoughts. Some of those are delusional, but a lot of them are more than achievable. As human beings we struggle with going after what the heart wants. There is no doubt that it’s not easy, that it appears scary, and that there is always some semblance of risk. That is for you – as an individual – to measure and interpret. When you read the stories of those we consider successful, more often than not, there was a moment (or two) when they went for it. More often than not, these individuals were resilient. They did not go after their dreams with a reckless disregard, but rather a well-thought out, planned strategy. It went deeper than a simple belief and dug even deeper than those who rejected them or could not align with their views. This resilience is critical. With that, they also understood timing (some pre-meditated, while others got lucky). One of the best books (and it’s a small one) on this topic is called The Dip by Seth Godin. It’s a little book with a massive idea about when to stop (or to keep on going).
Step 4: Be resilient (in everything that you do… and that includes knowing when to quit).
Get out there. I’m sure Steven Pressfield will shake his head at this one, but I believe that you can’t just be head-down in the work. You have to get out there and meet as many people as possible. Some of the biggest challenges that we face in business have already been solved by our peers. Some of the biggest opportunities to get your business on track or pointed in the right direction may be by meeting the right people. Don’t spend your days and nights out there networking, but plan to network a few times a week. Adopt a "giver’s gain" mindset to this (be helpful and resourceful to others first) and watch the luck stack up in your serendipity bank account. Think about industry associations, the local chamber of commerce, mastermind groups and more. Schedule the events in, prepare before you enter the room, and do your best to provide value first with no expectation of reciprocation.
Step 5: Network by being helpful to others first.
The most successful people that I know planned for success (believe it or not). Failure is a part of this journey. Nothing is (ever) guaranteed. Still, if you focus on your unique ability, control your schedule, put your butt where heart wants to be, act with resilience and be as helpful to others as possible, you just may find your days filled with joy, growth and success instead of just letting another moment pass you by as you countdown to another weekend.
Your turn: how have you managed to run your best day possible?