Over the past few years I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who are struggling with how much they have to get done, and let’s face it, us business owners have a lot of ‘stuff’ to do. So much stuff and all of it urgent. A bulging inbox controlling our day, forcing us to react, impossible to prioritise.
Of course, everyone has days like this, where you can’t see the wood for the trees, where your to-do list for the day is so long it will take you to the middle of next week just to get through half of it. Those days when you don’t feel like your life is your own; when you’re working to other people’s priorities and everyone wants a piece of you; when you feel completely chaotic and out of control.
As one-offs, these days are manageable, there are simple tools and techniques to get you through them, to deal with them, and still get stuff done. But it’s when these days start to merge, when as a new client said to me, ‘Overwhelm becomes the norm’, when you forget where the hell you’re going, let alone how you’re going to get there.
That’s when overwhelm has become a real issue. That’s when you lose focus on your vision; when what’s really important to you seems a million miles away. So what do you do? You go chasing off down rabbit holes looking for the answers, in time-management programmes and apps.
You start subscribing to lots of ‘successful people’ – you know, those people who seem to have it all, looking for the magic pill that’s going to bring you their success. And of course, that’s exactly what it is – their success. You start to believe that success only comes through long hours and even harder work. You lose sight of what’s really important to you; what success means to you; what your ideal future looks like.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, you can start by asking yourself this one killer question:
What am I trying to achieve, and why?
I’m a pretty organised person these days, and this one question (ok, technically two) still has a massive impact on how focused I am, and how much I get done on a day-to-day and month-to-month basis.
It’s a powerful question, whether you’re thinking about the next year, or the next hour.
To find your answer, go back to what I’ve talked about in previous blogs when I asked you to look at your personal ‘why’ you’re in business, what you really want for yourself, your Big Vision.
Are you really clear about what you’re trying to achieve, and why? Because when you are, you’re ready for the simple exercise that will get rid of overwhelm every time it raises its ugly head.
And here it is:
Step 1: Decide on the timeframe that’s overwhelming you. Is it what you have on today, tomorrow, the coming week, the coming month?
Step 2: Next, get yourself a big sheet of paper and a pen.
Step 3: Write down everything — and I mean everything you believe you have to get done in the coming week: personal, business, everything...
Step 4: Once you’ve done that–once you’ve exhausted everything – and you’re sure you have it all on that sheet of paper, grab a big, black marker pen.
Step 5: Go through your list and cross off everything that doesn’t move you towards what you’re trying to achieve; everything that doesn’t move you towards your big vision.
Be ruthless here, look for other people’s priorities on this list and get them crossed off. Look for things that are easy to do, or that feed your inner procrastinator, like setting up a to-do list app, or reading through all those emails you’ve subscribed to, and get those crossed off too.
Cross off anything that doesn’t move you to where you now know that you want to be. Ruthless is the key word.
Step 6: There will be things on your list that do have to be done, but most of them should not be done by you; things like book-keeping, expenses, managing your database.
These things can stay, but they get moved onto a second list, called ‘Delegate’. Add all the things that need to be done, but not by you, to this list.
Recognise those things that you may be busying yourself with because they’re maybe in your comfort zone or you’re good at them but are really a waste of your time and could be done much cheaper elsewhere. This will free up your time to prioritise what only you can and should be doing.
What you are left with after this exercise are three lists:
Your Do list – the things you’re going to do because they move you towards your vision
Your Ditch list – full of other people’s stuff, and things that you’ve just got into the bad habit of adding to your list every day
Your Delegate list – things that you’re going to get other people to do
Give this a go and see what it does for your overwhelm. I promise you, it works like magic.
You have to be ruthless though, and you have to get over your guilt about ditching other people’s priorities. Just remember that’s exactly what they are – other people’s priorities, not yours! You have plenty of your own to be getting on with.
Do One thing: Your DO, DITCH OR DELEGATE exercise!
Thanks for reading.
One of my favourite films is ‘A Few Good Men’ set in the US military. Tom Cruise, a lawyer, asks a soldier, “How do you know where to go for meals; it’s not in the manual?” “Well," the soldier replies, “I guess I just follow the crowd at chow time.”
When you start out in business and recognise the need for a mentor it is so easy to just follow the crowd at chow time. With so much noise out there on social media it’s easy to be dazzled by someone’s success or lifestyle. This person’s really successful, they have loads of followers they must be the one. They also charge alot of money and you pay for what you get, right? Well, not always.
It took me a while to find the right mentor. Some of the people I came across I would describe as Peacocks, they seemed bright and shiny but over time there wasn’t a whole lot of substance or rapport. I soaked up everything they said, feeling inadequate at times and starting to judge myself in ways I wouldn’t have done normally. I realised I was judging myself by what was important to them, not me, so no wonder I never felt comfortable. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t, if that makes sense.
In time I realised that before I looked for a mentor I had to first understand myself:
So the gurus extolling the virtues of a 60 hour week, of putting relationships on hold or making me feel guilty that I wasn’t posting live at 4am and doing webinars at 8pm, that I hadn’t run a marathon before breakfast, were not for me. And that’s not to knock them; these things worked for them, their values, their lifestyle and aspirations. They just weren’t for me.
I knew I wanted a life supported by my business and a business I was passionate about. I wanted an enriched life but which didn’t entail a luxury yacht! I defined my values and my aspirations and the way I wanted to do business. Then I took a good look at my business; where I was and where I wanted to be and honed in on aspects of the business where I could do with another pair of eyes.
I decided I needed to look past the Peacocks and look for the Owls for their wisdom and the Eagles to inspire me to soar. People who had credibility and influence. People who’d had triumphs and disasters. People who would inspire me and challenge me, help me see things differently and give me a boot up the backside if needed. People who believed in me and wanted me to succeed and who weren’t on some ego trip or selling mission. Most importantly, people whose values aligned with mine.
And now having worked with some great mentors over the years I have learned it’s still important to process what’s said. To have a filter, not to follow blindly. To ask regularly, ‘Is this what I need right now. Does this fit with my values and aspirations?’ Know yourself and be true to yourself whilst seeking the wisdom of others.
Do one thing: If you have a mentor ask yourself these questions:
If you’re in business and haven’t yet got a mentor I would definitely recommend it. I hope this blog proves useful in your search.
Thanks for reading.
I read an article this week on linked-in where the writer had challenged herself to take a whole week off and totally switch off from work. And she reinforced the ‘totally’ bit. She wanted to spend quality time with her children for an uninterrupted week and was asking readers if they thought she could do it. My response was, “Yes! Otherwise, what’s the point?!”
And that’s the question I’d like to pose in this blog:
“Why are you really in business?”
With my clients over the years I’ve gleaned there are often three main reasons:
You could almost combine 2 and 3 into the time and financial freedom to provide a great life for me and my family. And of course ‘be my own boss’ ‘get rid of the 9 to 5,’ ‘work at something I believe in’ are all in the mix.
But for many business owners I meet, the ‘making a difference’ is happening and often the ‘making money' (for financial freedom) is happening but what’s got lost is the pursuit of time freedom. That has often become a vague ideal that will happen somewhere down the line.
And of course when you’re younger you take your health for granted, you’re loving the buzz of your business. You’re energised and focussed and you’re driving your business forward. And that’s great…to a point.
So I would ask you to just pause, take a breath and think about what’s really important to you. Most often people will respond to this with one word - ‘family.’ And you may say that you’re out there working all the hours for your family but given a choice would your children want more money or more of your time? Okay, maybe not teenagers! But younger children; are they going to remember summers of great games on the beach, pony rides and ice creams, and bedtime stories with mum or dad, or a parent who was always too busy?
If you want great relationships with your children you can’t say, “Right I’ve got time now” and find they’re eighteen and about to leave home. And it’s not just about those wonderful memories you want for your children but for yourself too. You’ll never have this time again. Same for your spouse or partner.
Think about what’s stopping you from taking time off:
Small business owners are clearly passionate about what they do, so it’s no surprise that they find it hard to leave work behind on holiday. It can be a challenge also to totally switch off from work as technology has made it so much easier to stay in touch. I believe it’s crucial to take proper breaks to achieve an enriched life and avoid business burn out.
This is why we at MPL exist. Our vision is to make business easier. To enable people to achieve financial and time freedom.
The right team, recruited to your Big Vision and Values, simple logical and repeatable systems to follow, and a strong second line manager to whom you can delegate are the portals to freedom.
If you want any help unlocking those door please take a look at our website:
www.mariannepage.co.uk or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do one thing: Think about what’s really important to you and what may be preventing you from achieving it. Then act.
Good luck and thanks for reading :)
Contentment can sound like a dirty word in business. There’s a thought that we should all be striving and pursuing and achieving and other go-getting verbs! And I agree I’m all for continuous improvement, for making things better and easier for clients; for being as good as I can be. That is my business mantra, as I know it will be for many of you. But things can start to turn sour if the constant exposure to social media makes people start to feel unworthy and discontent by comparison with peers. I read recently that this is happening and starting to undermine people’s self-worth. So today I want to share with you a short story which I hope will shore up any flagging self-esteem and draw learning points to restore or protect your self-belief.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Long, long, ago in a land far, far away there lived an old man. Each day he went to the stream with two earthen pots hung from either end of a pole. One was perfect, always full of water, the other was cracked and leaking, only half full when he got back to the house.
One day the cracked pot said (stick with me) to the man, ‘I’m so ashamed’.
‘Why on earth would that be?’ asked the old man.
‘I’m hopeless!’, said the pot, ‘water leaks out of my cracks all the way back to your house and you never get home with two full pots of water. I’m a failure.’
‘You couldn’t be more wrong’ laughed the old man, ‘you’re a wonderful pot. On the way back home look carefully at the side of the path and tell me what you see.’
All the way home the cracked pot paid attention, and at the end of their walk the old man asked him what he’d seen.
‘Flowers’ answered the miserable pot. ‘I know they’re beautiful, but it doesn’t help me. It was nice to look at the flowers but here I am only half full again. I’m still leaking. I’m still a failure. I’m so sorry old man.’
The old man smiled. ‘You daft old pot,’ he said, ‘there’s no need to be sorry. Did you not notice where the flowers were growing?’
‘Well, yes,’ said the puzzled pot. ’On my side of the path; why?’
‘All these years I’ve planted seed on your side of the path. And every day as we walked back from the stream, you’ve watered them, and the seeds have grown, and the flowers have bloomed for all the villagers to see. You are a wonderful pot. Because you are the way you are, the village path is full of beautiful flowers.’
The cracked pot glowed with pride and happily watered the path for ever after, content that he was after all, a wonderful pot.
Sweet story, but how does it relate to you and your business? There are a few key learning points:
Do one thing: Brainstorm all the good things you do and all the value you add in your life as a whole, and in your business specifically, as a person and as a business owner. Then take the time to celebrate your YOUness.
Thanks for reading.
20% of business owners interviewed didn’t have a single day off that year.
Ah, another bank holiday approaches and all over the UK those SME’s closing down for 3 days are scuttling round like blue-arsed flies. (Where does that expression come from? Anyone?)
There’s nothing like an approaching holiday to instil a sense of urgency. I know I seem to get tonnes more done in the week leading up to a holiday; my brain seems to find a sixth gear from somewhere. Okay I think I’ve mixed enough metaphors, moving on!
I was trying to find some stats relating to business owners taking holidays or not taking them. In one report, research revealed that around 20% of UK business owners interviewed didn’t have a single day off that year. 52% took five days or less and well over half of those worked while they were away.
I like to think I’m as passionate about my work as the next person and many days it doesn’t feel like work because I love what I do. So I work hard but I do make sure that my planning is for life first and business second. As a fan of Stephen Covey’s, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ I know that I need to ‘regularly sharpen the saw’. This isn’t just about burnout, or always having energy and focus to give my best. It’s about relationships, pursuing favourite hobbies and pastimes and having a full and enriched life.
I don’t think success is all about money. I think it’s about making a difference to the lives of those around you - loved ones, clients and communities and also living your own life to the full. To achieve any of that I need freedom.
Two main things help me strive towards that goal:
Small business owners are clearly passionate about what they do, so it’s no surprise that they find it hard to leave work behind on holiday. It can be a challenge also to totally switch off from work as technology has made it so much easier to stay in touch. It is crucial to take proper breaks to achieve an enriched life and avoid business burn out.
Do one thing: Unless your business directly benefits from bank holiday weekends, take well-earned time off to recharge your batteries. If you find yourself using the time to catch up or get ahead, have a think of what you could change to give yourself that time freedom.
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
I read a great quote by Clare Balding the other day about Pep Guardiola. She wrote, “He (Pep) is the manager not just of a team of players but also of backroom staff whom he always values, praises and thanks. He is a leader who makes them all believe the impossible is possible.”
It just got me thinking about how bosses and managers treat their ‘backroom’ team. One of my pet hates over the years is hearing a manager giving someone a task and apologise for it. How does that person then feel? How can they take pride in their job and feel any sort of fulfilment? I’ve seen it in managers who want to be liked or are worried about a possible reaction, “I’m really sorry to have to ask you to do this…’’
Now I’m not suggesting they do a Tarzan swing and ‘big-up’ a simple or repetitive job but rather to explain to people how their role fits in to the bigger picture. You may think cleaning toilets isn’t much of a job. Okay now imagine you work in an office and they’re not cleaned! I know many people who judge an eatery not just by its food and service but also by its toilets. Have you ever come back from the loo and raved about it or returned to your table vowing never to return to the restaurant?
We had a US vice president at McDonald’s who would always make the toilets his first port of call when checking out a restaurant. Not for a call of nature but to make sure they were so clean that he could eat his burger off the toilet floor. (I wonder if he ever did?)
People want to feel that they belong, that they’re valued, that they are part of the business and that they make a difference to its success. I heard a story recently where a school had called a meeting about its future but had just invited teachers to it. Not the facilities people or the grounds team, those people without whom the teaching couldn’t happen. How to quickly make people feel they don’t count!
On the other hand, I know someone who made a point of working late a few times a week to catch the cleaners coming in so she could learn their names, thank them in person and explain the difference they made to the working environment and the business’s success. Yes, these people were employed by an Agency, but she felt they were still part of the team. She would also insist on clear desks and work areas every night explaining that it made it easier for the cleaners and to get her team members to appreciate their work.
An old boss of mine used to love telling the tale of the man he used to pass regularly on his way to work pushing his dustcart round London streets. He was so impressed that this guy was always smiling, acknowledging people as he passed. His cart was decorated and the pride he took in his work oozed from his pores. Imagine if the person giving him that task had been apologetic rather than explaining that the first impression people get of a city is its clean streets.
So going back to Guardiola, I imagine that when he has a team meeting which is about the future, rather than next week’s tactics, he invites the whole team. And what is so great about it is that the extremes in that team would be hard to replicate in most SME’s; famous multi-millionaires and the person who cuts the grass being inspired by the boss about the future of the club.
Do one thing: make time to ask your team members individually how they think their role impacts the business. If they don’t know, then there’s your chance.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.
Does your other half complain that they see too much of you?
Do your kids groan ‘cos you’re taking them out for the day, again?
Are you the number one invite on your friends’ social calendar?
Do you never take your laptop on holiday with you?
So you’re telling me you don’t have all the time in the world?!
Then let me ask you this: do you own your business, or does it own you?
We had a meeting with a new client recently, and we asked him how he felt about his business. He paused for such a long time I can remember thinking, ‘this is going to be a loooong day’, and then he said just one word:
“This ‘job’ - that’s what I call it now, totally owns me. It dictates my mood; my appetite, my energy levels. I think about it all the time. I lie awake fretting about it. It feels like my entire life is being sucked into a big black hole.
“I went out on my own to have more freedom - to spend more time with my wife and kids, and look at me now - working every hour God sends.
“Everyone told me I needed a team, but all that’s done is increase my workload - the tax, the paperwork, keeping on top of them. I’m sure right now they’ll be glued to their phones cos I’m not there. Arghhh….”
Of course he’s not unusual.
In fact he could be a poster boy for the small successful business owner! Maybe he’s just like you?
You started small, right? Built a really great business, had loads of fun doing it, started taking people on. It was all ok for you too at first, and then… the wheels came off. You lost your consistency, you lost your belief that people would perform for you, you began to work longer and longer hours to keep on top of everything.
But, and this may surprise you, even ‘the youth of today’ don’t come to work with the sole purpose of pissing you off. Nobody plans to have a bad day or do a bad job, especially not the people you hand-picked for your business.
The change you’re looking for doesn’t start with your people, it starts with you.
You want freedom, particularly time freedom? Then build strong foundations, that free your people first.
Strong foundations built around:
Your Plans - showing your team what the destination is, and how you’re going to reach it together - the route map for them to follow
Your Processes - having a set way of doing what you do - a system for everything
Your People - only hiring people who match your values, and fit your team, and then training them to follow your set way of doing things
Your Performance Management - taking every opportunity to give constructive feedback, to correct, to praise. Having regular performance reviews that reward excellence
Successful business is built on the consistent performance of high performing teams who know where they’re going and follow the business systems to take them there. Look to McDonald’s, to Virgin, to Apple if you doubt what I’m saying.
And you can have this too. Put your energy into building your foundations, and you will find your freedom.
Do one thing: take a look at your life and your business and decide if it’s time to change.
Thanks for reading :)
So, you have a big Vision that gives you goosebumps and it’s plastered on your wall in huge letters. You’ve started to plan with your team about how together you’ll make that Vision a reality. And you’re all buzzing about the future and cracking on. Great stuff! I can feel the energy from here.
Now, all that’s missing is an effective Personal Management System. Not the sexiest title I’ve come across but even the most inspiring vision, and the smartest of plans will be wasted if you don't have the means to keep yourself on track.
A Personal Management System
Your daily routine is the cornerstone of your personal management system, and should be crammed full of habits that will maximise your productivity, and move you closer to your Vision.
1. Get into the habit of planning your day the evening before (and your week on a Sunday evening). At the end of the day, you’re usually very clear about what still needs to done, what the priorities are, what tomorrow’s frog* will be. Advanced planning like this makes sure that you hit the ground running.
2. Chunk your work into 90 minute segments. This is a good timeframe for focus, and FOCUS is the key word - don’t multi-task - if you’re going to work on a sales letter, work on it for the full 90 minutes, or until it’s done, if you can do it within the 90.
3. Peak Practice - Work out which part of the day you’re at your peak - for me it’s first thing in the morning - and use that 90 minutes to ‘eat your frog’ - *do the thing that you don't necessarily want to do, but that’s weighing you down mentally, because you know you really need to get it done.
Just get focused and eat the damn frog! It’s a really good success habit to get into.
4. Set yourself mini deadlines - always good for those of us who like a bit of last minute pressure - make them ‘drop-dead’-lines too! Absolute must delivers! Breaks are always a good deadline. Holidays are also excellent. Ever noticed how much more you get done in the days leading up to a holiday, or the minutes leading up to any deadline.
5. Switch Off. Both breaks and holidays are essential for your long-term productivity too - refreshing and re-energising your mind and body. The most successful businessmen and women really get this, and have made breaks long and short, a habit they will always keep.
6. Daily Exercise. Other daily routines and success habits that are good for your mind and body, include taking at least 30 minutes exercise a day - even if it’s just a walk down the road and back - and drinking plenty of water - two litres is the recommended amount isn’t it? I’m no scientist, but I can testify to the power of a lunchtime walk for clearing your head and setting you up for a productive afternoon.
For budding entrepreneurs, there are three other personal management essentials:
A Personal Management System takes discipline and time to develop, but when you learn to manage yourself, the business will be a piece of cake!
Do one thing: look back over today/yesterday. Did your work take you towards your Vision? Did you have frog for breakfast? If not, look to adopt these good habits and improve your routines.
For more information on how MPL can help you, contact us here: email@example.com
Business owners, will you be keeping one eye on your e-mails on Christmas Day? According to recent research 1 in 5 of us will be. I can picture it now, a sneaky look at your phone secreted under your Christmas napkin and then all hell breaking loose when you’re spotted!
These stats make for interesting reading:
You could expect these figures for Christmas Day if they were coming from the hospitality industry, and of course retail returns with a bang again with Boxing Day sales, but these are across a wide range of SMEs. So what about other owners? Some will take the ‘down’ time to catch up on paperwork, some to think about the coming year and some may just want the excuse to escape from relatives.
For many though it’s the pressure of having to keep up with work. The ‘one man band’ may not have a choice. Larger businesses work over the festive period perhaps because the owners don’t trust their team and manager(s) to run things without them. It’s said to be the reason why so many businesses in the UK remain in ‘startup’ mode instead of scale-up.
So if you have a team but you still need to supervise and double check their every move, take a moment to think about ‘why?’ And then, what better time with the New Year approaching to think about what you’ll do to change things.
Michael Gerber says in the E-Myth,
“If your business depends on you, then you don’t own a business, you have a job, and it’s the worst job in the world, because you’re working for a lunatic!’’
He’s right, because quite often, as business owners, we are lunatics. We’re control freaks. We’re demanding. Demanding of ourselves. We insist on long hours and hard work, and really, that’s the technician, in us, the person who feels that they have to do everything.
Serious business owners and entrepreneurs can take time off whenever they want and their income still comes in. They have two fundamental things:
I’ll be taking a full two weeks off this festive season. I’m not saying this smugly, I’m saying it because it actually took me a while to get to this point.
To get to the point where I don’t feel guilty to get to the point where I can trust my team to do what needs to be done, where I have that level of trust. And to plan work so that I can also give my team a good break.
The trust that allowed me a totally switched off three weeks last Summer has come from having the strong systems in place that I need, having the team in place to get on and follow the systems, and achieve our goals. We business owners talk endlessly about how to engage and reward people and what better way than enabling them to get on unhindered by our daily meddling. Ask yourself how you would like to work for someone constantly looking over your shoulder and that’s how your team will feel. Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them, are the root to stress-free holidays, to long weekends off, to any weekend off, and to financial and time freedom.
Holidays, for me, are absolutely vital for continuing to do good work for my clients, continuing to come up with new ideas, or better ways of doing things. That all just comes out of resting my brain, stopping the relentless running and rushing around to see clients, or to develop and deliver programmes. It’s really, really important that you take that time to rest and relax, and you can only do that, as a business owner, if you have the systems in place, if you have the team in place.
I’d love you to think about that, if you recognise yourself here.
Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them.
Do one thing: Let this be your goal for 2019.
• you will not be working bank holidays
• you will not be working weekends
• you won’t be working 60 or 70+ hour weeks
Instead, you’ll be spending quality time with the people that you love, with your animals or whatever you love doing beyond your work.
Merry Christmas from all of the MPL team x
Do you feel like you’re drowning? Drowning in paperwork, in problems, in people stuff? And all because of your success!
When you were starting out you had a handle on everything. Now that you’ve grown you’ve had to take on more people and it’s just not the same. You feel like you’ve lost control. And like any new parent you’re finding it hard to trust anyone with your ‘baby’ - to do things your way.
If it helps, you’re not alone. There are lots of successful small business owners out there who have fallen out of love with their business. What used to be fun, exciting and rewarding is doing great financially, but not giving you the same pleasure or sense of adventure.
Of course you've always worked hard, but in the early days that hard work was interesting and added real value to the business. Now you’re working even harder and it doesn’t ever seem to move things on.
7 Clear Signs Your Business Needs Simplifying
So…are you stuck? Or are you drowning?
I hope you’re neither, but if you are, let me throw you a lifebelt.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can have time freedom and a business that runs like a well-oiled machine, manned by a high-performing team. You just need to systemise in every area of your business and develop a strong second line of management. That’s not as daunting as it sounds.
In fact, there are only 10 steps to your Freedom - that freedom to scale, grow or sell your business, or run it from a beach somewhere if that's what you really want.
Fancy a bit of that?
Do one thing: Our Systems Mastery Programme works around you and your life, giving you the freedom to work ON your business, not IN it. Read more here: Systems Mastery Programme
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)