Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

Productivity, Performance

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No. This is not about getting your spouse to clean out the garage — finally!

If we are to be completely honest, every entrepreneur has a project list that proliferates like rabbits at Easter, squirrels in my garden, and cat videos on Facebook. And, in true entrepreneurial style, ideas give birth to more ideas until nothing gets done.

We have the best of intentions, don’t we? We come up with inventive ideas to move the business forward. In a word (or two), they can easily be defined as brilliant and ingenious!

And then the day begins.

Given all the ways we’re pulled hither and yon in a day, it’s no wonder well intentioned plans soon gather cob webs. Before we know it, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and we’re now two years past due on that website update that is sorely needed. (Heavy sigh!)

Granted, we could engage a project manager or delegate to whomever else is in the office, but with a small business like yours and mine, it still requires our involvement. So, we delay (i.e., procrastinate) and wait patiently for the unicorn called “available time” to reveal itself.

The way I see it, we have two methods at our disposal to break a logjam in our business. We can let it annoy us until we can’t stand it anymore and dump the project entirely, or we can tie it to a bigger mission.

Projects With A Purpose

One of our clients recently lived this experience. We had discussions for months (or was it years?) about a project that desperately needed attention. No matter the planning, cajoling, or coaxing, it was an undertaking that continued to outwit them.

A “nice to have” project that continually fails to make it to the drawing board generally lacks urgency. It requires more energy than we realize to hold on to “nice to have” projects and/or plans. Minus a connection to a bigger purpose or goal, it continues to hound us. Sound familar?

If you’re projects are nagging you a bit more than is tolerable, consider a bit of self-coaching. Ask yourself:

  1. What project(s) is/are pulling at me?
  2. What is the bigger goal or purpose — the one thing — I can get behind that excites me enough to create some forward movement?

If you can’t find the enticing reason to start now, perhaps it really was just a “nice to have” idea which has since lost its shine. For the sake of your sanity, cross it off your project list until a greater purpose brings it back to life.

Nagging projects need a worthwhile nudge to completion or to be cast aside to make room for something more valuable.

One thing I know for sure after two decades of coaching uber achievers is they have high expectations of themselves. Not just normally high but really high expectations. It’s a curse and a blessing. And, for most high performers, it’s a conundrum.

High achievers possess super human ability to accomplish volumes in a day. They are gifted, talented individuals capable of ginormous achievements. Their expectations to achieve, on the other hand, are often out of sync with reality…said with all due respect to my super achieving colleagues.

The real challenge—given their lofty expectations and that pesky thing called reality—an extraordinary performer winds up with diminished achievement. Why? The chasm that exists between their expectations and reality creates stress and overwhelm at work and at home. Additionally, they are underpaid, which impairs their power to engage needed resources. They work into the wee hours of the night, squeeze more into each day, and use their weekends to catch up on what didn’t get accomplished during the week. Sound familiar?

Subsequently, they are burned out. Creativity and innovation go out the window as they attempt to hold the frayed ends of their business together. The ability to think clearly, make strategic decisions, and take their business to the next level is clouded by fatigue. Sleep deprivation leads to restless nights. Exhaustion triggers poor nutritional choices that exasperate the situation. And round and round it goes….

Bridging the Gap

To visually demonstrate the expectation—reality gap, grab a piece of paper. In the middle of the page, from left to right, draw a line and label it “reality.” At the very top of your page, draw another line from left to right and label it “my expectations.”

In between those two lines, write the following words: stress, burnout, fatigue, crabby, angry, short fuse, overwhelmed, easily distracted, decision avoidance, and whatever else the gap triggers for you.

Bridging the gap between expectations and reality isn’t easy. It beckons you to make changes in how you think and act. Yet, it begins with simple questions each day:

  1. What is it that I expect of myself?
    For a crystal clear understanding of your expectancies, don’t just make a mental list—document each and every detail. The ability to see all that you expect is a real mind-bender.
  2. What is realistic to achieve given my current commitments?
    Stop “piling on” or biting off too much each day. Respect your boundaries.
  3. What needs to be done today?
    Prioritize activities, using a Daily Goal Planner, start with those directly related to your goals.
  4. What can be scheduled for another day?
    Easier said than done—until you close the books each day with a sense of accomplishment rather than defeat.
  5. What can be delegated?
    Assign qualified staff or service providers to handle activities better suited to their skill and qualifications.
  6. What needs to be deep-sixed?
    Expectations are not engraved in granite. After careful reflection, many expectations may no longer be relevant.

Entrepreneurs bridging the expectation-reality gap find success when pairing questions with actions, such as:

  • Pare the daily “to do” list from 12 to 3.
  • Balance meetings throughout the week to allow time each day to stay on top of what really matters.
  • Launch into the day with the “one thing” that means the most to the future of the business. Until the “one thing” is complete, everything else is a diversion.
  • Say “no”—a lot!
  • Establish boundaries to properly manage the expectations of others.

It all sounds so simple—and it is.

Simple is not the same as easy: Easy means with little or no effort. Aligning your expectation-reality gap—and all the fulfillment, satisfaction, inner peace, calm, joy, and happiness that accompany it—is well worth the effort.

Got a gap? Give us a call.

Productivity is the hallmark for small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to accelerate the rate of their business growth. All you have to do is Google “productivity” and you’ll be presented with 197,000,000 results in .37 seconds. Even so, productivity remains as elusive as Big Foot. With the volume of information available at our fingertips, why does productivity continue to baffle small business entrepreneurs? 

Last week, I wrote an article featured on Zane Benefits on the one thing every ambitious entrepreneur needs to know—and do—to squeeze every bit of productivity from each day.

Article Highlights:  The One Thing to Maximize Your Productivity

Productivity—and how to achieve it—has evolved over the years. As we’ve moved from the Industrial Age to the Information Age to the Technology Age, the way we achieve also needs to evolve. Unfortunately, too many small business entrepreneurs are using Industrial Age methodology to succeed in the age of Technology.

Humans Don’t Function Like Computers

Remember when the Disk Operating System (DOS) was the coolest thing to hit your industry? Even though it performed a single task at a time, its accomplishments were astonishing.

Soon, upgraded operating systems allowed multiple tasks to be performed simultaneously. “Human multitasking” quickly followed. Humans, unlike computers, are unable to effectively and accurately perform two tasks simultaneously…yet that doesn’t seem to stop people from trying.

In similar fashion, many small business entrepreneurs rely on outdated productivity “methods” that essentially obstruct productivity…like using a DOS system to run today’s high-powered computers.

To-Do Lists Throw Your Business Off Track

Although efficiency expert, Ivy Lee, helped Charles Schwab of Bethlehem Steel make tremendous strides in productivity in 1912, his 6 Most Important Things List lacks value for true productivity that leads to success.

Most “important things lists” today are littered with trivial tasks and activities that have little impact on the big picture of your business.

The One Thing to Know

Leadership expert, Jim Collins, first introduced the idea of “the one thing” in his book, Built to Last. The BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) swept the country. Defined as something so big that it breaks one out of their rut, instills a sense of urgency, and eliminates distractions, BHAG creates a single-mindedness of purpose that burns a hole through paper.

Recently, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, reinforced the notion of “one thing” in their best selling book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Designed to evoke focus and greater productivity, Keller and Papasan proposed one question aimed at cutting through the clutter and confusion that is the Achilles tendon of most entrepreneurs today—“What’s the ONE Thing to do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”—not the six things you can do, should do, or would do. It’s one thing.

Keller and Papasan went on to add the defining statement for productivity: “Until my one thing is done, everything else is a distraction.” Now that’s a real behavior shaper—one that lends itself to greater productivity and success.

Times change and so must our methods and systems for productivity.  As Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz would say, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

The full article can be accessed via Zane Benefits and is a great resource for small business looking to bring the benefits of individual health insurance to their employees.

goal management

An entrepreneur-in-the-making asked how much “time” should be dedicated to growing a smart business. Hmmm, that’s a real thought-tickler. And, one many entrepreneurs ask. Are 40 hours enough? Are 70 hours too many? What is the exact number of hours needed to grow a successful business?

goal management

The answer?  None of the above!

Time management is a tool of the Industrial Age. You put in X time to produce X. With the explosion of the information age, time management is a technology of the past.

Yet, there are those who continue to use time management to achieve success. It’s quite the struggle. Granted, using our time wisely is of paramount importance.  Unfortunately, being a top-notch time manager doesn’t guarantee success.

Goal Management Rules!

The technology of performance and achievement for the 21st century is goal management. Have you heard of it? Essentially, the premise of goal management is that your goals determine how you organize, plan, and achieve throughout the course of the day.

Although most entrepreneurs would argue that goal management is their primary focus throughout any given day, that fact isn’t really evident based on their actions….and their achievements.

Observe an entrepreneur (or yourself) for an hour, a day, or a week. You’ll quickly learn that everything BUT goals drive behavior, and consequently, decisions and results.

Give it a try.  Let your goals, rather than time, dictate your day. See what you accomplish. You’ll astonish yourself.

Nothing is more frustrating for an entrepreneur than the inability to move their business forward. Like walking through quicksand, any movement feels labored and difficult. As a strategic coach, I’ve worked with many small business owners who felt blocked and unable to make the kind of progress they want.  In an attempt to jar themselves loose and uncover the cause of their inertia, they engage in asking ’why’ questions.

Why am I stuck?

Why can’t I seem to move forward?

Why am I feeling this way?”

Why? Why? Why?

“Why” is an attempt to understand underlying motivations which may never be realized. The inability to discover the answers along with immobility result in frustration, anxiety, procrastination, avoidance, and guilt.

A solution to inertia is asking “what” questions which are about movement and activity. When you ask “what”, you create energy and reveal solutions that dislodge the log jam of immobility.  This movement leads to further movement – like a snowball rolling downhill – gather more and more momentum with each revolution.

Consider these “what” questions:

  • What needs to happen?
  • What needs to change in order for me to move forward?
  • What is it going to take to get off square one?
  • What is one action that I’m willing to take right now?
  • What do I want to have happen?
  • What are my other choices?
  • What has worked for me in the past?
  • What is missing for me?

‘Why’ is about understanding; ‘What’ is about action.

What other questions have helped you break your inertia?

Have you heard of the expression “death by a thousand paper cuts”? I’ve just recently heard it. Frankly, I don’t know if its a movie or just a saying. It doesn’t really matter as it makes it’s point – bleeding to death from thousands of supposedly insignificant paper cuts.

That’s how I feel about email. It seems so harmless – so inconsequential – yet it can kill the most productive day in no time.

Each morning as I contemplate my day, I consider tackling more significant, profound projects before opening the gates of hell – email. Yet somewhere in my mind, there’s a sense that I can launch my email program, speedily respond and delete, and be done.

It never quite works that way.

Once the email program rears its ugly head, its never ending. The requests, the ads, the information, and the stories keep coming at me until my once hopeful and productive day dies – death by a thousand emails – and its only 6:35 AM. <Sigh>

Do you ever find yourself stuck? Unable to move forward on a project or a goal? In your quest to jar yourself loose, are you asking yourself “Why can’t I move forward?  Why am I feeling this way? Why am I so stuck?!”

Why? Why? Why?

“Why” is a great question to ask if you want to understand underlying motivations.  Unfortunately, these drivers aren’t always so easy to identify.  The inability to discover the answers, along with lack of movement, create frustration, anxiety, procrastination, avoidance, and guilt.

A solution to the inertia is to ask “what” questions.  Questions beginning with “what” are about movement and activity. When you ask “what”, you create energy and reveal solutions that dislodge the log jam of immobility.  This movement leads to further movement – like a snowball rolling downhill – gather more and more momentum with each revolution.

Good “what” questions to ask yourself include:

  • What needs to happen?
  • What needs to change in order for me to move forward?
  • What is it going to take to get off square one?
  • What is one action that I’m willing to take right now?
  • What do I want to have happen?
  • What are my other choices?
  • What has worked for me in the past?
  • What is missing for me?

“What” is about action.    What have you found helpful to get you moving when you’re stuck?

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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