Time Management Part 4: Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning

“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate what they can accomplish over the long term” – Author Unknown

One of the most difficult areas of time management is strategic planning. Generally speaking, most companies have at a minimum a three-year rolling plan in motion at all times. This helps ensure accountability and that business and financial targets are met over the long hall. The question is, how can you introduce strategic planning into your personal life so that your big goals are realized over time, just like companies do? The answer is to start at the finish line and work your way back to now!

When I first heard strategic planning laid out like this, it was like a light went on for me. I always understood the strategic plan concept but never thought of it in the reverse order paradigm. This is how it works. Pick a big goal for yourself that is only achievable over the long term. On a whiteboard or somewhere visible, create a three-year timeline (years represent key milestones) with each year broken up into one-month increments. This will create monthly placeholders for you to map out your action steps within each yearly milestone. Then, fill in your chart as follows:

  1. Start at the end of year three and write out specifically what your achieved goal will look like (what, where, how much, etc.).
  2. Then, step back through each year one by one, noting the big milestone you will need to reach over the course of that year to hit your end goal.
  3. Finally, fill out the incremental steps you will take each month that will get you to your yearly milestones.

Let’s say your goal is to take that special someone in your life on a cruise around the world. Great goal, but really expensive! First, do some research and figure out what the price range is for your dream cruise, taking into account any extra spending money you will need for the journey. Let’s say for the sake of this example that your luxury excursion costs $3,000 and you will need an extra $600 for spending money, bringing the total to $3,600. First, calculate how much you will need to save each year to reach your annual milestones. In this example, that would be $1,200. Here is what your strategic milestones would look like, keeping in mind you need the more granular monthly increments to stay on track.

While this example is simplistic for the sake of showing the process, the more complex your goal, the more this type of visual planning will serve you. You must have tangible milestones that move you in the direction of your destination. You must know what winning looks like for you, or you will never achieve it. Finally, here are some steps to make sure you realize your strategic target.

  • Look at your three-year plan each day
  • Take DAILY action towards your goal no matter how small
  • Adjust the next increment or milestone to catch up if you fall behind
  • Experience the joy of reaching your goal now, as if it has already been realized

So, what big goal do you keep putting off because you can’t find the starting point, much less visualize the finish line? Dust off your goal, pull out a whiteboard and start dreaming. Then turn that dream into a strategic plan and make it a reality! Remember, most people overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate what they can accomplish over the long term.

Resources

Here are links to previous time management articles.

Time Management:
Morning Routines
Time Management:
Love Your Commute

Time Management:
The Short List

P.S. If your big goal is to start your own online business, then I can help. Check out these training resources and start building your strategic plan today!

Time Management Part 3: The Short List

List

It was a hot Saturday afternoon and I was feeling good. One by one I was proudly checking off the long list of household to-do items on the whiteboard in the front hallway. With each checkmark, I would stand back and admire my excellent time management skills based on the progress I was making. Later that day when I came back into the house to check off yet another heroic accomplishment, I stopped in dismay. Someone had erased all of the finished tasks which had checkmarks, only leaving the unfinished ones. I suddenly only had evidence of what I had yet to do, with no proof of my accomplishment to-date

If you are like me, this is how it can feel at work most days. Somewhere between the flood of emails, instant message requests from the boss and meetings as far as the eye can see, we have “real” work to accomplish. There was a time when the multiple streams of work and distractions stressed me out as I watched my day slip by without any tangible progress against deliverables. Not anymore! The answer to time management problems at work is The Short List.

This is how it works. The minute you sit down at your desk each morning, make a list (preferably in red) of the three non-negotiable deliverables that need to get done before you leave work today.  By the way, these should not be softball tasks that would get accomplished anyway in the course of the day, these should be real deliverables. Then, every time you switch from one activity to the next (exit a meeting or finish an email, etc.), review The Short List and look for an opportunity to attack these deliverables. If you happen to miss a key deliverable on a given day, start the next day’s list with that item or eliminate it altogether if it is no longer a priority. Here is an example of what that might look like.

The Short List

  1. Plan the team offsite
  2. Finish/submit Q4 budget forecast
  3. Recognize John Doe for his outstanding contribution

This may not look like much but if you complete the shortlist each day, that is 15 completed deliverables per week. How many key deliverables are you accomplishing now with your current time management approach? We often say we need more hours in the day. The way to have more hours in the day is to have a better time management plan. It’s called The Short List!

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Time
Part 1: Daily Routines
Daily Commute
Part 2: Love Your Commute
Start Your Online Business

P.S. Remember, business success rarely surprises those who achieve it, they show up every day expecting it!

Time Management Part 2: Love Your Commute

Daily Commute

Last week I worked out of the Jersey City, NJ office where you look directly across the Hudson River at mighty lower Manhattan. As I met various teammates that I do not normally see in person, I asked them about their daily commute to the office. Without exception, I was greeted with painful stories of riding the trains and subways for up to 90 minutes each way to and from work. Not one of my teammates had a positive spin on this required chore or a thoughtful time management approach on how to make this time work in their favor. Why is it that no one likes their work commute? I for one love my daily commute to and from work!

Commuting to and from the office is a necessary evil for most of us. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average travel time to work in the United States is 25.4 minutes. If you subtract 4 weeks for vacation, sick time and other missed work events, that is about 203 hours per year or the equivalent of 25 workdays! Imagine what you could accomplish with an entire extra month per year of time? Here is the answer to making that time work for you and how to turn your commute into something you love.

  1. Identify an area of personal growth that is a focus area for you to invest in. Make sure it is something you are passionate about even if it does not directly align with your day job at the moment. You will be amazed at how growing skills around an area of interest will spill over in positive ways into your current work environment.  In my case, that would be learning the skills and mindset necessary for living (and teaching) a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
  2. Identify 3-4 mentors in your field of interest. If you don’t know who that should be, start looking online at leaders in the field and consume some of their content to see if your interests align. From this group, find those who have weekly podcasts and subscribe. If they do not have a podcast, they may have e-books you can download. As you listen to a given mentor, they will lead you to others in the field that you can start to follow and be mentored by.
  3. Immerse yourself in the chosen topic each day to and from work. It will not be long before you start to see the payoff. Not only will you begin to grow in an area you are passionate about, but you will also start to look forward to your daily commute as a treat, and not a chore.

What was 30 minutes of dead time to and from work each day, is now one of my favorite activities. What are you passionate about? What new skills do you want to learn? With a little creative time management, you too will have an extra 203 hours a year to invest in yourself and a commute that you love. Let’s get started! 

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

List
Time Management Part 3
Start Your Online Business
More About Me

Time Management Part 1: Morning Routines

Time

While listening to one of my mentor’s podcasts today, I heard the statement to be successful we need fewer cheerleaders in our lives and more coaches. A cheerleader (say your mom for example) is going to cheer you on no matter what the quality of your output is. A coach (or mentor) on the other hand, is going to give you the tough love feedback needed to get to the next level. Today’s time management discussion likely falls into the tough love category for the 50% or so of the population who do not consider themselves a morning person, because it deals with actively creating and managing morning routines. Let’s get started.

Having a set routine in the morning is a critical factor in setting up your day for success. Rolling out of bed late after hitting the snooze a couple of times, grabbing whatever happens to be around for breakfast (or skipping it altogether) and rushing out the door to work is not a plan for success. You need to create margin in your mornings to consciously establish the mindset that takes you in the direction you want to go in. Almost all of my inspirational ideas come in the morning while I am working out, taking a shower or eating breakfast. All of this happens before I walk out the door for work. Knowing this, I build time into my mornings so I can reflect and jot down key ideas that come to me while my brain is rested. Then, I can go back to my notes later and build on them.

Yes, we are all at different seasons of life with varying responsibilities each morning which may include getting others up and out of the house as well. That’s where getting up a little earlier might just create the space you need for your morning routines. With this in mind, here are some keys to make every morning a success.

  • Set a specific wakeup time five days a week (assuming the standard Monday-Friday work schedule). On the flip side, set what time you will go to bed to get 7-9 hours of sleep, depending on your specific rest requirements – no excuses! Getting the right amount of sleep is critical to your overall health. Do not use the snooze function on your alarm. When the alarm wakes you up, get up right them. Once you train your body clock, you will no longer require an alarm to wake up on time.
  • Establish morning routines that you repeat daily in the same order from the time you get up to the time you leave for work. This should include doing something you love that charges your batteries such as exercise, inspired reading, saying your prayers, walking the dog, etc. Schedule time for a healthy breakfast, whatever that looks like for you, and make sure you begin hydrating right away (preferably with water). This will help to increase your brain function in addition to the other benefits of proper hydration.   
  • Review your vision. Take some time to write down big accomplishments you aspire to and start each day by reviewing them. These should be visionary aspirations for your life. How will you know when you get “there” if you never define your destination? Something we always ask ourselves at work which applies here is what does winning look like? Know where you are going.
  • Listen to a mentor during your commute. I will cover this in detail next week in Time Management Part 2: Loving Your Commute. In short, find someone you admire who is ahead of you in an area you aspire to, and then listen to their content daily.

It’s time to take advantage of the most important part of the day by introducing good time management routines into your morning schedule. As an aside, always have a notebook or journal handy to jot down the inspirations that come to you now that you are not rushing through your morning. When you get to work you may outpace others because of your pre-work routine. Take advantage of this edge and be a leader because you know where you are headed. You already settled your destination in your morning routines. You know what winning looks like!

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Daily Commute
Time Management Part 2
Start Your Online Business
Life Coach
More About Me

Dress for Business Success

Man in business atire

Business success rarely surprises those who achieve it, they show up every day expecting it!

If you work in a professional office setting you have likely been introduced to the “business casual” approach to modern day workplace dress. The concept of dressing for business success is quickly fading in many work settings. There appears to be no baseline for what appropriate workplace dress should look like anymore. What was once casual Fridays has now become the norm five days a week. While I am all in favor of loosening (or losing) the stiff necktie look, workplace dress is still an area where you can set yourself apart from the crowd in subtle ways with a little planning!

Another contributing factor to the change in dress culture is the fact that many employees now have the option to work from home part of the time, making it even harder to dress appropriately when they need to make an appearance in the office. Then, there is the younger generation entering the workforce with very few examples of what business dress should look like. Regardless of the reasons, dressing correctly for your business setting should be something you leverage to your advantage.

I was recently touring the Indiana State Museum and ran across an exhibit about clothes with the following statement, “We choose the color of our clothes to express ourselves, follow fashion trends or to signal the roles we play in our personal or professional lives”.

Six simple steps to gain a professional edge and increase your personal brand

  • Know Your Color Pallet. Understand what colors work well for you personally and what they are saying about you professionally. For example, blue represents someone who is trustworthy, loyal, and sincere. White indicates you are inventive and self-confident while red reflects someone who is confident and impulsive (see a full-color map at the end of this blog). Regardless of color, solid lighter button-down shirts or tops are always going to look more professional.
  • Wear Dress Pants. Avoid kakis or other more casual pants that wrinkle quickly. Instead, pick dress pants that hold a crease well and create a good base for whatever top you chose to wear. Remember, the pants (or skirt) should be a darker plain color that does not draw too much attention, but rather complements what you are wearing on top.   
  • Keep a Jacket or Blazer at Work. I always have a jacket on standby at work. A solid black or navy-blue jacket or blazer can instantly raise the level of most any professional outfit. You never know when you will be pulled into a video conference with senior management or a surprise meeting where you need to take your look up a notch.
  • Wear a Watch. A watch not only provides functional value it also enhances the overall professional look. The trendy iPhone watches are fine but a classic timepiece with the hour and minute hands is preferable. You do not need an expensive Rolex to make the right impression, in fact, it might tend to detract. Get a classic looking watch and add it to your standard professional look.
  • Skip Casual Fridays. If you work in a professional office, take a pass on the casual Friday routine. Dressing the same on Fridays as on the other four days of the week will increase your opportunity to create the right impression by 20% over your coworkers!
  • Post a Professional Picture on Company Media. If you have Intranet work platforms such as contact profiles or workshare applications where posting a picture is optional, post one! Too many people overlook this free opportunity to increase their personal brand. Also, take your dress up a notch for this post. Avoid the awkward selfie and get a professional headshot made if you can. Make sure you do not post casual, non-work appropriate pictures on business media platforms!

I remember an executive telling the story of a visit to another city where he had some employees he had never met before. One employee that made a specific impression (and not the good kind) showed up to meet him in the office in shorts and flipflops. Her excuse was that she normally worked from home and therefore did not have the need to dress up. This was a monumental unforced error on her part!

If your personal business plan is to blend in with the office crowd, then pull out the jeans and sneakers or whatever casual dress others are wearing. If on the other hand, you are a leader, dress like one! Take a little time to evaluate your wardrobe and start dressing in a way that reflects your commitment to excellence. Remember, business success rarely surprises those who achieve it, they show up every day expecting it.

Full-Color Map

The following information is based on an exhibit at the Indiana State Museum named OUR CLOTHES TELL THE STORY OF OUR LIVES.

  • White. Reserved, Refined, Orderly, Elegant, Centered, Inventive, Self-confident, Reflective
  • Blue. Calm, Sensitive, Steady, Trustworthy, Introverted, Peaceful, Loyal, Sincere
  • Green. Sensible, Calm, Outspoken, Curious, Reliable, Balanced, Persevering, Respectable
  • Yellow. Optimistic, Happy, Idealistic, Faithful, Enthusiastic, Helpful, Spontaneous, Responsible
  • Orange. Social, Independent, Active, Adventurous, Happy, Witty, Open-minded, Playful
  • Red. Passionate, Confident, Vibrant, Ambitious, Energetic, Impulsive, Determined, Extroverted
  • Pink. Affectionate, Sympathetic, Romantic, Playful, Generous, Nurturing, Kind, Emotional
  • Purple. Creative, Supportive, Sensitive, Imaginative, Peaceful, Spiritual, Charismatic, Compassionate
  • Black. Dramatic, Bold, Powerful, Mysterious, Independent, Serious, Private, Elegant

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Stress
Reduce Stress Blog
Online Business Training
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Key to Business Success

Fork

I dove into breakfast the other day only to be surprised by the unpleasant sensation of a fork with one prong that was bent and out of line with the other three. You might not think this would be a big deal but it definitely detracted from an otherwise great breakfast. With every bite, I was repeatedly reminded of the bent prong as it rubbed against my mouth. Many people I observe, and in the past even admired lead lives that are like a bent fork prong. They are known for their amazing leadership skills, entrepreneurial spirit, and overall business successes. But if you look a little closer, you realize something is out of balance.

I personally know people just like this. They seem to succeed at whatever business endeavor they put their minds to, but they cannot maintain relationship commitments, no matter how many times they try. Or they succeed in business to the detriment of their physical health, cutting corners on the basic building blocks of wellbeing such as sleep, exercise, and a proper diet. While I admire their business skill and entrepreneurial tenacity, I am now able to recognize that living a balanced life is a key facet of true business success.

Really Successful People

True business success must always allow for a constant rebalancing of work and the necessary elements of life such as relationships, health, and mental well-being. There is something about a good entrepreneur that overcomes anything that gets in their way. Unfortunately, this no-nonsense approach that brings great success in one area, can be the very thing that is detrimental to one’s overall life balance. Warren Buffett once said something to the effect that the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say “no” to almost everything. In other words, they know how to focus on what really matters even though opportunities (and distractions) are constantly presenting themselves.

Living a Balanced Lifestyle

How do you know if you are striking the delicate balance between business success and the other key areas of your life?

First, you must allow a measure of self-awareness and introspection. You will never just fall into proper balance. It takes work.

Next, you need something to measure yourself against. This is where articulating core values is an absolute must. If you have not defined the person you aspire to be, you will never become that person.

Finally, a balanced lifestyle will only come through thoughtful pursuit. The next time you observe your work overtaking your life, remember the bent fork and take time for introspection, check your core values, and pursue a balanced lifestyle.

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Man in business atire
Dress For Success
Online Business Training
More About Me

Find Your Mentors

Piano Teacher

In Memory of Mr. French

I sat alone about halfway back on the right-hand side of the large church auditorium, lost in thought. It was the funeral service for Mr. French, my piano teacher. I did not know any of his family but felt compelled to honor the man who had faithfully worked to make me a better musician. I remembered all the times I walked up the stairs of his brownstone home and into the front room, where the intense smell of freshly brewed coffee and the sweet sound of piano music flooded my senses.

For years I couldn’t help but feel that we had all suffered a great loss that day and that Mr. French had with his passing taken so much talent with him, somehow leaving a musical void in the world. If only there was a way to re-capture his gift and bring back the music, he so effortlessly gave us.

Then one day it dawned on me. I was looking at his life and passing in the wrong way. His musical legacy continues to live on through all of his many students, each carrying on a piece of his incredible gift. His willingness to teach and mentor us was the very thing that has kept his musical legacy alive well beyond his natural years.

Who Are Your Mentors?

Can you name more than one person who speaks into your consciousness and inspires you to grow? Mr. French was my mentor because I showed up every week at his brownstone to practice my craft and learn from his musical talent. For you perhaps it is a business thought leader, a spiritual guide, or even an amazing music teacher. Can you name one, maybe two active mentors in your life today?

Identify your mentors. If you don’t have any mentors today decide what you are passionate about and start looking for someone that is ahead of you in this area. Seek out regular time with people you admire. If you can’t find anyone in person, sign up for podcasts from someone who is already successful in an area that you want to grow in. Make it your personal goal to be able to identify at least three mentors that challenge growth in you on a weekly basis.

Become a mentor. Develop personal skills that attract others to you who also want to grow in a given area. You don’t need to look for people to mentor, you just need to develop your core values to the point that others seek you out for guidance. If you hone your skills enough, they will find you. And when they do, carefully choose a few who you are willing to trust your legacy to and start pouring into them.

Leave a legacy. There will always be a part of me that Mr. French helped to form, no matter how much or how little I play music today. Every time I walk past the piano, I smell the freshly brewed coffee, and I hear the sound of his fingers gliding effortlessly over the keys. In many ways he imparted more to me than just music lessons, he trusted me with a little piece of his legacy. Thank you, Mr. French, for being one of the top mentors in my life!

Resources

Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Picture of positive thought
Blog: About Thoughts
Online Business Training
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