Sticking To The Basics

Keeping It Basic

Jim Rohn, author of “What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence,” once said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”

All the commitments, information to absorb, and things to complete can be all-consuming, stressful, and overwhelming. I’ve noticed, however, when reading how successful people thrive. I was amazed by how easy they made it. There is nothing mysterious; they stick to the basics.

You can simplify your work life by sticking to these four basic rules.

Rule # 1 – Keep the end result in mind.

Rule # 2 – Some results are more important than others.

Rule # 3 – If something keeps falling to the bottom of the list, let it go!

Rule # 4 – If you can’t figure out what to do next, remember Rule # 1!

A coaching client reduced his workweek from 80 to 50 hours while increasing his productivity by putting these four rules into practice.

Rule # 1 – Keep the end result in mind.

As a child, I couldn’t wait to look at maps my parents brought home as we were preparing to take a trip.  I would trace the route with my finger imagining all the different adventures we would have as we traveled to our destination.  It was fun to dream and more fun to experience.

Today, with a heavy schedule, it’s essential to have that map firmly pictured in your mind – your internal map of where you are now and where you want to be. (Read my April 2019 blog “Use GPS to Map Out Your Goals)  Each day as you face many choices and paths by referring back to your map, you can ask yourself: What do I want to achieve today, this week, this month that will move me toward my destination?

Most likely, you’ll take side trips or perhaps change directions completely.  Knowing that you are working toward being a premiere program manager, CPA, or coach goddess, will aid you in clearing away the confusing clutter in making choices that support you in achieving your goals.  Sometimes the trip is lots of fun, and sometimes the stretch can be quite stressful. One thing is for sure—it’s an adventure!

Rule # 2 – Some results are more important than others.

A few years ago, a friend was assigned a big project.  He was very excited.  It was a stretch for him, exactly what he needed to move forward to attaining his ultimate career objective.  About a month after beginning work on this project, he told me he was discouraged because he hadn’t gotten very far.  He admitted that even though he had completed his previous project, he found himself still cleaning up his documentation.  Doing this felt safe and comfortable while diving into the new project felt very uncomfortable. I asked him, “In the big picture view of reaching your career goal, which of the two is more important—neat and tidy documentation or doing a good job on the new key project?”

Where do you spend your time—on the results that will make you thrive or on what feels safe?  Ask yourself, “How important is what I’m doing right now (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being least and ten extremely important) to achieving my goal?”  “How do I know this is more important than the other things on my plate?” By answering these questions, you can prioritize your tasks more effectively.

Rule # 3 – If something keeps falling to the bottom of the list, let it go!

 When working with an overwhelmed coaching client, we made a list of everything she had on her plate to determine her focus.  There were at least 30 items she insisted must be completed no matter what.  I asked her to prioritize all the tasks. She then committed to achieving the tasks in order of priority (most critical/important to least).  Every week we reviewed her list and added any new items, prioritized by importance.

After a few weeks, she noticed some things kept falling to the bottom.  She also saw that those things that were at the bottom might be “nice to do” but were not necessary to her success.  Not only did she have a shift in focusing on what was important, but she also totally deleted ten items! A weight lifted off her shoulders, and she felt more energized and engaged in her work.

What can you let go of to focus on what is most important to you?

Rule # 4 – If you can’t figure out what to do next, remember Rule # 1!

No matter how disciplined you are, it’s easy to become over-committed at work, especially if you enjoy your work.  It’s like going into your favorite candy store and wanting to try every new flavor! The downside is when you are over-stretched, meeting your commitments can become complicated, standards lowered, and life gets out of balance. Then you may feel like you’re merely surviving rather than experiencing the ideal state of thriving.

Just stick to the basics, and you can thrive!

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Loretta Staples, a Strategy Consultant, now Therapist, once stated, “If you are clear about what you want, the world responds with clarity.” Whether you’re taking a vacation, building a dream home, or managing a large project, periodically identifying where you are now to where you want to be, helps you focus firmly on the results you want to achieve.  Call them milestones or checkpoints; they serve an essential purpose—time to reflect on how far you have come, what you still need to do, and if you’re currently on track.

History can teach us many lessons, not the least of which is with determination, commitment, and oversight you CAN do the impossible. Let’s look at Stonehenge, England, for example.  Built approximately 5,000 years ago, its Neolithic builders somehow floated, hauled, and dragged 30 16-foot high stones, the largest weighing 50 tons, from Wales to Stonehenge – a staggering 250 miles!

There are no written records to show how it was built (scientists are still trying to figure that out) or why.  One thing is for sure; the builders had to carefully plan how to transport these gigantic stones and erect them. To make sure they were on target, they also had to check and re-check their progress against their envisioned results along the way; or as my grandma would say, “take stock.”  To do otherwise was to ensure failure.

In today’s world, to achieve results, successful people must take stock along the way.

Taking stock is a 3-step process!

Those creative builders had a clear picture of what they wanted to create. To turn it into reality, as we need to do today, they took stock periodically as they moved their plan forward—a 3-step process— (1) where am I now, (2) what do I need now to continue moving forward and (3) am I still on target?

Sometimes this process is painful, especially when discovering you took a wrong turn or two.  Isn’t it much more economical, money and time-wise, to have periodic checkpoints and make small corrections along the way rather than wait until the end and find you need a massive redo?

Taking stock can mean the difference between success and failure.

Step One:  Where am I now?

Taking a periodic checkpoint to see what you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come gives you a sense of what needs to happen next to close the gap between now and where you want to be.  Just like those ancient builders, ask yourself, thought-provoking questions:

  • What did I do well?
  • What changes do I need to make?
  • How far have I come?
  • Am I where I expected to be, am I ahead of schedule, or am I behind schedule?

Step Two:  What do I need now to continue? 

Ancient builders had to be resourceful and creative.  They didn’t have Home Depot to find the right tools.  They determined what jobs they needed to do, looked at what was available, and often repurposed their tools to fit the situations at hand.  And if they didn’t have what they needed, they invented it!   Neolithic laborers used pieces of antlers to dig through the chalky ground and create massive earthworks at Stonehenge.  Can you imagine?  Amazing stuff!

What do you need to continue toward your goals, such as determining the resources required and where to find them? Perhaps, as the ancients did, you can use your skills and tools in ways you did not think of before.  Be creative.  You can always get a coach or mentor to help you think outside the box or ask colleagues to brainstorm with you.

Step Three:  Am I still on target?

 Keep your eyes on the prize.  With what you have done so far, are you still aimed in the right direction?  To be successful and thrive, you need to stretch and reach outside of your comfort zone to achieve the desired results.  People sabotage themselves by becoming distracted or focused on doing merely quick and easy things.

If you’re behind where you first wanted to be at this checkpoint, could you be sabotaging yourself?  If so, determine what it will take to get back on course.  Again, having a coach or mentor may help or asking colleagues to be your supporters will make it less daunting. Either of these could also be an accountability partner to help keep you on track.

Yet, as we discover more about what we can do and what we like, the target may change, or, at least, bend a bit to the left or right.  If this is the case, what do you need to do to set a new course?

Stop whining and get moving!

Being a recovering procrastinator, from time to time, I need to remind myself to stop whining and get moving!  Life is hectic, fast-moving, and loaded with things to do—all excuses for not doing what will make me and you succeed.  Successful people focus on those things that will make them thrive rather than those things that make them busy.  Which do you choose?

Be a thriver, not a survivor!  OK, I made up a new word, but it works for me.  Let it work for you!

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End of Year Debrief

Each year I update my End of Year Debrief as a reminder to savor your accomplishments during this year and prepare for next year.

This year has been a blur! Because we can get mired down in all the details of emails, deadlines, and projects, going into the New Year is a great time to think about what you have accomplished in 2019 and what you want to focus on in 2020. Answering the ten questions below, you can begin 2020 with a BANG!

Perhaps you think there is no time to reflect on what you had done; only think about what you have to finish now.  The strength of reflection is to learn what you did well and be proud of that and identify what you could have done better and how you might do things differently.

So, I am asking you to take some time and answer the questions below.

  1. What are the ten things I am most proud of accomplishing this year?
  2. What motivates me?
  3. What learnings can I apply to make work simpler?
  4. What would I do differently?
  5. What problems or issues am I tired of having?
  6. What actions do I need to do to fix them?
  7. How can I do more of the things I enjoy doing and less of what I dislike?

Charting a course for 2020, please take some time to think about:

  1. When I look back on 2020 next December, what would I want to have accomplished and experienced?
  2. What do I want to focus on in the first quarter of 2020?
  • How will I remain on course for 2020?
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Successful people act as owners of their own company, whether they work for a company, as a contractor, or self-employed. It is crucial to have a strong sense of the value you bring which you can clearly articulate along with creating a plan on how to differentiate yourself from others in a similar role.  Essentially, acting as entrepreneurs. It is all about selling yourself through communicating your brand.

I believe everyone should act as entrepreneurs, developing that brand—a concise and consistent message of what you want others to know about you, how you contribute value, and why they should care.

By taking ownership of your area of responsibility, you become the official CEO of “I, Inc.!”

Whether you stay in your current role or find another job, being flexible and adaptable is critical.  A CEO is a strategic thinker.  In today’s environment, there is so much information to filter, extracting what you need quickly, to make quick, insightful decisions.  When you put on your entrepreneurial hat, you are planning and developing your company to take advantage of opportunities where others see problems.

By thinking of yourself as the Owner and the Product you are offering, you empower yourself. Successful people thrive in challenging times by taking ownership of their objectives, making decisions, setting priorities, and achieving their goals by acting as the CEO of their own company in the context of their role.

Next month I will write a more in-depth post on how to create that brand.

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Be Prepared!

Change is continuous; it will never stop. Preparing for the challenges change offers—whether an unexpected work force reduction or a role change—is responding to events rather than reacting to them.  By managing your career, you have a much greater chance of taking advantage of opportunities as they come along (being let go is an opportunity if you have a plan), while focusing on creating value as you move forward in your chosen direction.  Reacting, on the other hand, is letting the ‘cards fall where they may’, putting ‘all your eggs in one basket’ and could place you in a position where you just don’t want to find yourself.

Front-Pocket Plan

A Front-Pocket Plan is a dynamic and energizing road map for how you want to move forward or grow in or out of your present organization.  It is about thriving in your career, being fully engaged, discovering ways to add value, and strengthening your personal brand.

The following questions will help you create your Front-Pocket Plan:

  • Where do I see myself fit in my corporation’s “bigger picture”?
  • How can I use my strengths more effectively to impact that “bigger picture”?
  • What skills do I need to develop or further master to support the corporation?
  • What habits of thinking or behaving do I want to create that makes me more productive?
  • What habits of thinking or behaving do I want to eliminate that hold me back?
  • Where do I see my skills, knowledge, and experience being applied in ways I will enjoy?
  • Who can I talk to—mentor, coach, advisor, subject matter expert—to help me determine my course(s) of action?
  • What other resources do I need to thrive?
  • What would I write as my value proposition?

Sometimes those blindsiding moments come up, and you need a:

Back-Pocket Plan

A Back-Pocket Plan outlines what you will do if your worst-case scenario happens. For example, being part of a Work Force Reduction, accepting a job because it pays the bills but you hate. Perhaps, you find yourself in a job that doesn’t have the growth potential you were looking for, or working for boss you dislike.  There are as many reasons for a backup plan as there are people, and not having a plan could find you in a tough situation.

A Back-Pocket Plan includes everything you can think of to prepare yourself if that worst-case happened, so you can hit the ground running.  Pants have more than one back-pocket, and you should have more than one alternative.  If Plan A does not work, then go to Plan B.  If you do your homework, you should have a very workable plan that will keep you thriving regardless of your situation.  By having this plan written out, it helps to reduce the feeling of uncertainty and increases your feeling of control.

Below are some questions to help you create your Back-Pocket Plan:

  • What is my financial situation currently?
  • What steps do I need to take to accumulate at least six months of savings to cover monthly bills and emergencies?
  • What can I eliminate to stretch my savings—cable, summer camp…, etc.
  • What aspects of my Front-Pocket Plan can I leverage with my Back-Pocket Plan?
  • What would I love doing that will use my strengths and give value?
  • What industries do I want to research?
  • What updates does my resume require to reflect my experience and wisdom?
  • What resources do I need to contact—mentor, coach, financial advisor, subject matter expert—to help me determine my course(s) of action?

Now, you are ready for action!

 

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End of Year Debrief

This year has really flown by! Because we can get mired down in all the details of emails, deadlines, and projects, going into the New Year is a great time to think about what you have accomplished in 2018 and what you want to focus on in 2019.

Perhaps you think there is no time to reflect on what was done; only think about what needs to be done now. The strength of reflection is to learn what you did well and be proud of that, and identify what you could have done better and how you might do things differently.

So, I am asking you to take some time and answer the questions below.

  1. What are 10 things I am most proud of accomplishing this year?
  2. What motivates me?
  3. What learning’s can I apply to make work easier?
  4. What would I do differently?
  5. What problems or issues am I tired of having?
  6. What actions do I need to do to fix them?
  7. How can I do more of the things I enjoy doing and less of what I do not enjoy?

Charting a course for 2019, please take some time to think about:

  1. When I look back on 2019 next December, what would I want to have accomplished and experienced?
  2. What do I want to focus on in the first quarter of 2019?
  3. How will I remain on course for 2019?
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