Aug 8, 201210:40 PMPetra Learning, LLC
Tips for the Business Professional
Want to Get Ahead? Stop Sabotaging Yourself
We’ve spotted the enemy and it is us. Busy and chaotic doesn’t begin to describe the lifestyle that most professionals lead these days. Attention spans are at an all-time low. Headlines rule the day. We want our status updates short and sweet, 140 characters or less. If we want more, we’ll click on it, maybe. But then again, we get distracted by the phone or an urgent text or email or the next attention grabbing headline and off we go. So it doesn’t surprise me when people lament about the books that haven’t had a chance to read or the class they haven’t been able to enroll in or the personal development plan that they haven’t had a chance to write. Right now, I have 4 business books in my library waiting for me to read, and one that I’m currently reading. There are days, even weeks, when I have to force myself to set aside time to read these books and reading is a part of my business. It’s an absolute must for me and they are relatively good books. I’m pretty good at wading through the fluff quickly and tossing it aside. So I know that my time is not going to be wasted with these books. So I absolutely understand it when people say they just don’t have the time.
But when are we going to realize that we are limiting our potential every time we chose not to invest in ourselves. Every time we pass up that seminar that we know we need, we are sabotaging our own success. We are intelligent beings capable of amazing innovation and creativity. We live at a time where we have an array of knowledge at our fingertips. We can download business and educational books at the push of a button. We can Google anything. We can brainstorm and problem-solve with people from around the world using virtual technology that make you feel like you are in the same room. Yet, many of the same basic issues that we’ve had with leadership development 20 years ago still exist today. Many of the same issues we had with mentoring 20 years ago still exist today. Many of the same issues we had with collaborative ventures between women-led organizations 20 years ago still exist today. We’ve made little progress with these issues and I can’t help by wonder why.
I don’t believe it’s because we don’t know what we need to do. Oh, if only that was the case. It saddens me to say this but I believe that it’s because we aren’t willing to do the hard work required to change our behaviors. There is no magic pill that is going to fix this for us. There’s no technology solution out there that can do it for us. I love technology like everyone else, but technology can’t instill leadership skills into us. Technology can’t develop rich mentoring relationships on your behalf. Technology can’t foster the relational trust necessary for ventures to thrive. Technology doesn’t communicate; people communicate. Technology just facilitates the process. The communication problems we have aren’t because we are are using emails or texts instead of in-person conversations. The problems exist because we are too busy to think about what we are communicating. We just want to get an item checked off the to-do list.
After participating in the women networking scene for about 20 years now, I can safely, although heavy heartedly, conclude that we have chosen not to collaborate on matters of significance. We have chosen not to build mentoring relationships in ways that could advance the careers of other women. Support them, yes. Sponsor them, no. We have chosen not to invest the time necessary to sharpen our leadership skills. We say we aspire to be CFOs , CEOs, or COOs but we either avoid roles that would prepare us for such responsibility or we fail to hone our business management skills while in those roles. We want to be more strategic in our thinking and our actions, but we won’t let go of tasks that we should. We talk a lot about it but we take very little action. There are great opportunities made available to us every month through organizations like the Women’s Book and WELD but what do we do with them? How often have we cancelled out of leadership conferences or seminars because of “an emergency”? At what point are we going to realize that our development is an emergency? How hypocritical is it for us to tell younger women that they need to continually develop their skills, network, and be open to new opportunities when we fail to do the same? It’s time for us to make our own development a priority and the first place to start is with time management and delegation. By improving our time management and delegating tasks, we can free up time to develop or other skills and prepare for our future. So here’s a quick list of time wasters to get you started:
Email/IM Volleyball – if you’re volleying back and forth with email, there’s a problem. Put a stop to it by refusing to trade anymore emails. Put it in their court to get it resolved or to get more clarity about what they want and to get back to you with a fresh request.
Aimless work – If you haven’t clarified the goal you want to accomplish by completing a certain task, stop. Don’t try to figure it out as you work. You’re likely to waste substantial time in the form of crapped work. Instead, use the time to get clarity. Once you have clarity then proceed.
Wheel spinning – If you don’t know how to proceed, seek guidance. You can waste hours, even days, searching for that elusive answer on the internet. In the meantime, others likely have encountered that question and can get you started easily. Leverage them.
Paper shuffling – make a decision and move forward. Stop looking at things two, three, four, five times, or more. If you need more information, request it, put a tickler in your file, and don’t touch it again until you get it.
“Forgotten Deadlines” – deadlines that sneak up on you will shipwreck your entire schedule so make an editorial calendar (creation calendar, deliverable calendar, whatever). Place deliverable and decision deadlines on your calendar and schedule a block of time to work on them. Treat the prep process like a client meeting because it’s just as important. There’s no reason for deadlines to become emergency fire drills.
“Dead Time” – There are tons of podcasts available for download. Driving in the car for awhile; try downloading a podcast and listening to it. Going for a run; that’s another great opportunity to listen to a podcast. If you work-out 5 days a week, you can listen to 5 hours of material without taking any time out of your day. I prefer to listen to sermons from different U.S. churches during this time but you could just as easily use it to listen to business relevant training.
Let’s begin to be more intentional with our time; it is our most precious business asset and it’s fairly distributed.