Consistency is Queen — 4 Steps to Consistent Action

[Gina is making her way back home after a heavenly almost-four-weeks of cruising and relaxing and generally galavanting all round Europe. She’ll be back, relaxed and ready to roll, next week.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy one of my favorite topics for building your Dream Business — with Finish Agent, of course!  Denise   www.SmallSparksBigResults.com]

CrownWhen your to-do list is as long as your arm, yet the warm summer days are singing their siren song, there’s one sure way to get your most important projects done, and still have time to enjoy the summer sun.  Work a little bit every day, consistently, and then you’ll be more relaxed, and can take time to play.

I know, I know, this sounds crazy.  But there’s a boatload of research that shows that people who work in small bits, very consistently, are more creative, more productive, and less stressed.

So in the face of that mile-long to-do list, how can you be consistent?  You just need to do a few simple things:

1. Focus on ONE — Yes, I know you have a million things to do.  I’m not saying you can’t work on as many as you want.  What I am saying is that the most successful entrepreneurs understand that focus is crucial.  So they make sure that they have one primary project at the top of their list, and that at least one small task gets done, on that specific project, every weekday. 

2.  Use a Trigger / Catalyst – I’d be willing to bet that you have at least some routine in your day, yes?  For example, you get up at a certain time, you shower, get dressed, then maybe exercise, or meditate, or have breakfast.  Those things are easy for you because you’ve created a habit.  And you can play off of that routine to add on yet another small, but very potent new habit — working for a short time, each day, on your most important business project.  Figure out at what point in your day (preferably morning) that you could spend 15, 20, or maybe even 30 minutes working on your most important business project.  Right after you shower?  As you’re drinking your morning tea or coffee?  Think of something you rarely miss doing, and hitch this new habit to that existing habit.

3.  Start Small – One of the most important parts of creating a consistent habit is to ease into it.  If you suddenly declare “I’m going to get fit.  I’ll go the gym every day for 1 1/2 hours!”  I don’t know about you, but it would take about 5 minutes for me to find an excuse not to go the gym.  On the other hand, if you say “I need to get fit.  I’ll start by walking 10 minutes on the treadmill while I read in the morning,” then your chances of success just increased significantly.  Never underestimate the power of small.

4.  Leverage Your Willpower — Remember that willpower is an exhaustible resource.  So take advantage of that fact and do one short work session early in your day, while your willpower reserves are at their highest. 

Just think of this as going on a long road trip.  If you’re going from San Francisco to New York and you drive only 5 miles a day, in the right direction, at least you are making progress.  If you sit at home, doing nothing, in one week you’ll still be sitting on your couch.  On the other hand — if you drive 5 miles a day, every week day, at least you’ll be 25 miles closer to your destination.  Every little bit counts.  And Consistency is Queen.

Do you have other ways that you create consistent action in your business?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

Finesse Your Success — Willpower Wisdom for Smart Business Owners

[Guest post from Denise Milligan of SmallSparksBigResults.com]

WillpowerWhat’s the most important thing you need to do to build your business?  How much progress have you made toward actually finishing that project?  If you’re like most people, you’ve got that big dark shadow of “should” hanging over your head.  And I’d be willing to bet that at least once you’ve thought “So-and-so just has more willpower than I do.  If I only had more determination… more willpower…  I could get more stuff done too.”

What if I told you that successful business owners don’t have more willpower than you do — they simply know how to use their willpower efficiently?

A really interesting study about willpower was published in 1998 by Roy Baumeister. In the study, they brought students into a room filled with the aroma of fresh-baked cookies.  On the table was a plate of  warm chocolate chip cookies, and a bowl of radishes.  Some of the students were allowed to eat cookies, while others were asked to eat only radishes.  Afterward, they were all given 30 minutes to complete a difficult puzzle.  The result?  The students who ate radishes — and resisted eating the enticing cookies — gave up on the puzzle after about 8 minutes.  While the lucky cookie-eaters kept at it for nearly 19 minutes, on average.  The amazing discovery was that we actually have a limited supply of willpower — much like a tank of gas.  And as we use up our willpower tank each day, we become less able to power through challenging situations — even minor ones.

That’s one of the significant differences between successful entrepreneurs and those of us who are just learning the ropes.  Successful people have figured out that it’s not about how much you can bulldoze your way through a gazillion tasks.  It’s actually about working smarter.  Successful business owners have learned to focus on one thing at a time until it’s finished.  And, equally as important, they take action on that one task early in the day, while their willpower tank is at it’s fullest.

Not convinced?  You’re pretty darn sure that you’re unique and that you actually do work better at night?  Think about the last time you put something important off until the evening.  I can pretty much guarantee you that you either decided to ditch that task altogether, or you were miserable, shoving your way through it and definitely not doing your best work.

Here’s a little challenge.  Identify the one most important task that you need to get done this week.  Then take one small action, every day, early in the day, and see what happens.

You don’t need to work harder.  You just need to understand that willpower is a limited resource.  Use it wisely!

What do you think?  Have you got a way that you organize your day around your willpower level?  Let us know in the comments.

 

Peanutbutter and Bananas — The Elvis Method to Get Stuff Done

[Hi!  I’m Denise from SmallSparksBigResults.com.  Gina asked me to step in for a little while, because she’s busy cruising around the Mediterranean for 3 weeks.  But don’t worry, she’ll be back soon.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a different twist on how to be a lot more productive… in Small Steps, of course!]

Elvis Peanutbutter Banana“Welcome to Programming 101.  Please take out a piece of paper.  Over here we have all the ingredients and tools that you will need,  to construct an Elvis Peanutbutter and Banana sandwich.  What I want you to do is write down every single step, in specific detail, for how to make that sandwich.  Go.”

Tick tock, tick tock….  10 minutes later…

“Great, all done?  Now, trade papers with the person sitting next to you.  Listen very carefully.  I want each one of you to read the instructions on that piece of paper and do ONLY what the steps say — do not do ANYTHING that isn’t on that instruction list.  Got it?  Go!”

Picture a room full of 20-somethings fumbling around the classroom, tripping over chairs, sticking their fingers in the peanutbutter jar, and slapping a whole banana on a piece of bread.  That is, of course, if they weren’t walking into walls, or just sitting in their chair with their hands in their laps.  They followed the instructions.  Exactly as they were written.  Nothing more, nothing less.  What a riot!

That’s what happens to entrepreneurs.  Only it’s not so funny.  Someone says to us:  “I’ll teach you how to create a new product (or signature talk, or new website or whatever) and here are the things you should do…”  But most of the time they don’t give you the kind of detailed, step-by-step instructions that you need to get the job done.  That leaves most entrepreneurs bumping into walls and sticking their finger in the peanutbutter jar…  but they’re still hungry because there’s no sandwich.

So here’s The Elvis Method — 3 simple steps to help you make better peanutbutter and banana sandwiches (aka get stuff done):

1.  Pick ONE specific project at a time that will be your priority.  Are you making a peanutbutter and banana sandwich?  Or are you making an omelette?  If you think about it, you’ll probably admit that most of the time you start making a sandwich today, but tomorrow you spend most of your time beating eggs.  You need to spend a little time every (week) day working on that sandwich, or it will never get finished.

2. Write down the steps.  Be very specific.  If you’re sitting in a chair and the peanutbutter is across the room, you can’t just say “Step 1:  Open peanutbutter jar.”  You have to do something to get yourself from the chair to the peanutbutter jar.  Drill down:  “Step 1:  Go to peanutbutter jar.”  Hmm…. what does “go to” mean exactly?  Drill down…  “Step 1:  Stand up out of chair.  Step 2:  Take 10 steps straight ahead.” OK, now you’re cookin’.  Keep drilling down until you know precisely what next step you need to take, and every day, take at least one step toward completing your ONE most important project.  Even if it’s just 5 minutes (one quick phone call, reviewing content that you need to edit, etc.) you’ll be amazed at how much you get done.

3. During the short time each day that you’re working on creating that Elvis sandwich, don’t allow any distractions.  Be laser-focused on that one small task.  Don’t answer the phone, don’t talk to anyone, and don’t do email.  The more focused and clear you are, the faster you will get that project done.

Have you tried the Elvis Method?  Or some other method to break your most important work down into small steps?  We’d love to hear from you.  Please share it with us in the comments! 

 

 

 

How to stay focused: 3 simple secrets to help your clients succeed

Here is my focus in this blog.  Actually I have two.

inspectingMy first focus is this:  I want to show you — the coach, consultant, or change agent — how to get things done and develop good work habits.

My second goal is to show you that you’re missing something in your work with clients.

Are your clients getting their long-term goals accomplished?  If the answer is “No” or “I don’t know,” read on.

Here’s what I’ve seen over and over — wonderful teaching, inspirational, motivational coaching sessions, but not enough training in how to get that big project done in daily, doable small steps.

Today my focus is on how to get your client to focus on those small steps.

Here is how I work with my clients to help them focus on the important.

inspectingupOnce the client has decided what their long-term project will be (e.g. starting a business, improving their use of social media, writing a book, developing healthy eating habits, building their practice), the client needs to know what to do next.

A long-term goal is important, but if you don’t know what to do tomorrow, you won’t do anything at all.

I believe that most people thrive with extremely specific plans, which means they need plans for what to do each day.

Jocelyn K. Glei reports in 99u that “a recent happiness study from Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are. Summing the research, the New York Times wrote, ‘Whatever people were doing, whether it was having sex or reading or shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else.’ In short, being mentally ‘present’ and focused on the task at hand really does matter – quite a lot, in fact.”

The only way to learn how to focus is to know exactly what you should focus on.

So I ask the client to determine the very specific next steps they must take.  I work with them until they know what they are going to do, in small steps, each day.

I also help them break down what could possibly get in their way, and how they are going to accomplish each small step.

Clients are overwhelmed by a deluge of information, thoughts, fears, and interruptions from daily life.  Without a list of next steps, they just won’t take any steps.

Seven Rules to Teach your Clients

  1. If you don’t know what to focus on, you can’t focus.
  2. If you can’t set an intention to focus, you probably won’t focus long.
  3. If you don’t eliminate distractions, you will be interrupted and stop focusing.
  4. If you don’t know that you’ve been distracted, you will end up doing something else without being aware of it.
  5. If you focus too long, you will burn out and not want to focus the next day.  So you need a reminder to stop.
  6. Without a reminder to keep focused, you may lose your focus.
  7. You need a way to mark the fact that you have started, which helps you start focusing.

Three Simple Tools That Help You Learn How to Focus

Here are 3 simple tools that address these issues.  See if you can identify which issues each one addresses.

  1. Use a timer.  First decide how long you want to work.  Make it a reasonable period of time (planning on 30 minutes is better than planning on 4 hours, because you might not want to do 4 hours, so you’ll do nothing).   Turn the timer on, and start your work.  As long as that timer is on, you keep going.  You don’t stop for email, eating or any other distraction.  When the timer bell dings, you stop.  You don’t keep going.

    Using this method, you have an internal reminder of what you are supposed to focus on, and an external reminder of when it’s time to start and stop.

  2. There’s an app for that: Concentrate, for Macs only, lets you specify which applications on your computer will be turned off while you focus solely on your chosen task.  It also gives you reminder sounds to help you stay on task.  It then turns off those apps once you tell it that you have started.

  3. Intentionq is a simple, web-based app that is designed to make you aware of what is often unconscious.  The designers of Intentionq ask this intriguing question:  “What would it look like to use the computer in a more intentional way; to only engage in tasks out of a conscious desire to do so?”  They then explain that Intentionq aims to answer that question in the simplest way possible, by recording and tracking your intentions as you use the computer.

First you set your intention. The instructions below say this say, “What are you using the computer for?  Be specific.”

whatwillyoudo

Here I’ve set my intention as “writing an article,” and I’ve chosen 25 minutes as the amount of time that I want to work on it.

writing

The timer has started, and I’m reminded by the title what my intention is.  If I decide part way through the 25 minutes that I want to check my email, I must set a new intention.

gowriting

I’ve set my intention to check my email for 10 minutes.  Note that my previous intention is “Pending” below in the middle bottom.

checkemail

As soon as I finish checking my email, the app will put my previous intention, “Writing an article” back on the screen, and continue the countdown clock.

The point of Intentionq is to help your clients become intentionally aware of the choices they are making, instead of finding themselves immersed in Pinterest 2 hours later, without any awareness of how they got there.  Like I was yesterday.

Try one or more of these apps for yourself.  Most of us mere mortals need something external to help us structure our work.  And remember, FOCUS!

What do you think of these apps?  Do you know of others? What do you do to focus? How have you helped your clients focus?

Please post your responses or thoughts below – I really want to hear from you!