Perhaps the most frequent questions that I hear in my sales-coaching practice are “Can you help me get organized, once and for all?” And “I don’t have enough time each day to accomplish everything that needs to get done. Can you help me?”
Are people saying they don’t know how to get organized or manage their day? Probably not. The answer to these questions lies in a deeper, more fundamental pair of problems: (a) getting started and (b) following through on goals and strategies. Disorganization and busyness are two obstacles that can keep us from focusing on the larger picture: our goals, such as growing our businesses; or finding ways to work less and earn more.
The Best Intentions
We want to improve and achieve in both our business and personal lives. However, human nature leads us down the path of least resistance, which interferes with our ability to follow through on our goals and the promises we make to ourselves. Each day, we are faced with many choices about what to do and how to do it. We tend to move toward what gives us pleasure and away from painful or uncomfortable things.
Don’t feel discouraged. There are strategies you can use to overcome this natural tendency to do what feels good instead of what you need do to do accomplish your goals. Here are 4 you can apply to any goal you set for yourself.
? Create bold, compelling reasons to follow through on your goal. Make it more painful to not move forward than to do so. For example, focus on how not being organized makes you feel. The more you exaggerate this consequence in your mind, the more likely you’ll be to follow through on your plan. Strike while the iron is hot; don’t delay in getting started.
When you thoroughly understand why reaching your goals is important and the rewards that you will attain by reaching them, you are more apt to follow through with the action required. There is no wrong answer; they are your goals. Define and own them, then move forward to achieve them.
? Start with small goals. You might, for example, start by clearing that stack of paper in your in-box, then get into the habit of clearing out the box regularly. Build upon this habit by aiming higher with the next goal (in this case, clearing the stacks of paper from your credenza).
Tough it out: Do whatever it takes to stay on track and focused for the first few weeks, even if that means cutting back on the number of projects you work on. I’ve learned in my coaching practice that you need to keep the large end-goal in mind, but that you also need to break it down into smaller projects along the way. When you break it all down into smaller milestones, instead of trying to get from A to Z all at one time, you are more apt to succeed. Remember the old saying: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
? Don’t go it alone. Ask associates to partner with you. Keep each other on track and accountable regarding your respective goals. Alternatively, find people you would not want to disappoint, and make a promise to them. There is strength in numbers. If you surround yourself, or at least pair up, with positive and goal-driven people, some of their energy will motivate you, as well.
When those around you know that you have set goals you’d like to achieve, they will most likely be supportive and help you stay on track. A cheerleader on the sidelines, or a caring coach or partner, can increase your chances of staying on-target.
? Believe in yourself. This may be the most important aspect of changing your behavior. Believing that you can attain a goal is a critical part of achieving it. Use whatever technique works best for you, whether it’s writing out affirmations, using visualizations or giving yourself rewards for incremental progress.
It takes energy to create new habits. Be prepared to experience some mental soreness. If you don’t believe in yourself, it’s hard for others to believe in you and your goals. This area, marked by determination, is one of the most important in the goal-setting and reaching process. You must believe that your goals are attainable for them to become reality.
Once You Get Started
Now that we’ve looked at following through goals, let’s find ways to eliminate the roadblocks that keep you from reaching them, such as disorganization and unnecessary busyness.
? Discover your time-wasters. Identify activities that interfere with your getting and staying organized, and eliminate them. A good way to get started is to look at your monthly appointment calendar for the past two months. Categorize how you are spending your time (e.g., sales calls, paperwork, meetings, etc.) and account for total hours spent in each category. Then determine what percent of time you devote to each of the activities.
Once you have done this, you can prioritize your “top ten” activities and assign an ideal percentage of time you should be spending in each area. Once you compare the ideal with the actual, you can create an action plan to bring the actual more in line with that ideal. Then you can design a work week that incorporates the ideal plan.
? Define your workflow and create an ideal workweek. Determine all of your necessary activities, each week, and allocate the ideal amount of time it takes to accomplish each one. Block off that time in your calendar.
? Build fail-safe time into your schedule. For example, set aside every Friday afternoon as reserve time. You can use this time to catch up on excess work or uncompleted tasks. If you’re totally caught up, head home early, or reward yourself with something else you enjoy.
? Use laser planning. Set aside time every day to review today and plan for tomorrow.
Good luck on your journey to success!