Are you making the impact you want? Are you doing what is most important to you?
When was the last time you stepped back and reflected on what your most important personal and professional goals and aspirations are?
Being more than midway through the year, take a few minutes to think about what inspires you, what you care about. What do you love doing, and wish you could stop doing? What gives you joy versus heartburn?
When you pause between the overflowing virtual inbox, emails and daily crises, are you making progress in making your dreams come true?
Think about it – three years from now where do you want to be? What are the big things you’ll need to do for that to happen? What will matter most that you are doing now? What are the stepping stones that will get you there?
Whether you take a long reflective walk or think about your inspiration in the back of your mind while enjoying a wonderful summer vacation, regularly reflecting on the big picture will help you from getting too mired down in the every day to build the future you are dreaming of.
What do you do to keep an eye on what you want to accomplish amid the every day rush of things?
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have enough to do in any given day. Since most of us are instead trying to figure out how the days fly by so quickly, regularly assessing what we can stop doing is vital to make more time for what matters most.
A stop doing list is crucial to free up time for all the exciting new things we could be doing instead. But that can be easier said than done in the nitty gritty of the endless daily to do’s and urgent last minute small and big crises that come up.
Take a step back and think honestly – if your mentor or best friend was looking at what you do in a given day, what advice might they give? Are all your meetings, processes, and day-to-day tasks truly necessary? What role do they really play? How do they help you accomplish your most important personal and professional goals?
So many organizations get enmeshed in processes, forms, and a meeting culture that can sap too much energy and time that could be used for getting the actual work done. It can be very easy to feel tied to these daily and weekly procedures and hard to see the forest for the trees. But reflecting on what purpose they serve and discussing them with colleagues can open up new possibilities. Just try to resist the temptation to substitute one process or procedure for another one if it doesn’t serve an important purpose.
Seek out efficiencies at work and in your personal life whether reserving certain times of the day for email and social media or grouping errands. Think about what times of the day you are at your best for creative activities like writing or strategic work like imagining what the best future for your organization would look like and developing new products or services. I try to reserve those times for that higher brain creative work and do more rote work at other times. It’s hard to feel productive if I do the rote things when I would have been at my most creative, and then try to be creative when I am tired.
In my previous post I discussed the process for regularly assessing your products and services to decide when it is time to stop providing something that is no longer profitable or meeting the goals you had for it. But seeking out the opportunities to cut out some of those hundreds of little and big tasks and routines we all do can be equally fruitful.
What strategies do you use to make the best use of your time?
As challenging is it can be to develop great new ideas, it seems even harder to discontinue a product, service, or event. Reflecting on what is really working and not working is crucial to the future of any organization. Nonprofits and associations also need to keep an eye on whether each membership benefit and program is still serving its purpose.
Whether your products, services, and events are profitable is the obvious, critical measure but other factors include:
- What do your most important audiences want and need? What problems do your key customers or members need help solving? Do all your current products and services still meet these needs?
- Given changes in technology and how people live and work, are you delivering the right products and services in the right way?
- Do they fit with your organization’s mission and priorities?
Products developed a long time ago may no longer fit those parameters but it can be very difficult for staff to step back and have an objective perspective, especially those who are closest to developing and maintaining them. It is natural for people to be emotionally invested and to fear change and how it might affect their jobs.
Using data that clearly illustrate the trends over time for sales, usage, expenses, and net revenue can help keep the conversation on the facts. Look at the role the product was designed to serve versus what is currently happening, and how the marketplace has evolved and is likely to change in the next year or two.
Honestly assessing what is working vs. what might be best to transition to a different iteration or to discontinue is critical to the future of the organization. It can affect people’s perception of your brand if they think you are stuck in the past with outdated products. Consider how discontinuing or revamping a product that is no longer fruitful can free up time and resources for exciting new ventures.
If you decide to discontinue or change the product, a careful transition plan that involves all affected staff is critical to success. Think through potential pitfalls and reactions and be prepared to be responsive, caring, and follow through effectively so that your provide as smooth a transition as possible. Testing the transition plan either casually or more formally with a small group of customers can help you anticipate issues and questions that might arise and how to best communicate the changes.
How do you periodically review your products, programs, and events to ensure they are still compelling and worthy of continuing?
Whether you have children or teens starting school or the Labor Day weekend brings back memories of shopping for school supplies and the transition from fun summer pastimes, this is a great time of year to reflect on your personal and professional goals.
Just like the start of the school year was a great opportunity for a fresh start and renewed focus on favorite courses and extracurricular activities when we were in school, adults can jump on the bandwagon by thinking through what you want to accomplish for your organization, your career, and your personal life.
In the day-to-day rush of urgent, frequent tasks, projects, emails, meetings, and more, it’s hard to take the time to contemplate what is most important to you and whether the to do’s you take care of each day are leading to accomplishing your goals. Making sure you have articulated your most important personal and professional goals is the first step. If you have already done this, be sure to regularly reflect on whether your goals have changed.
When you think one or five years into the future, what will you want to have accomplished? What do you most value spending your time doing personally and professionally?
Five years from now, what will make you feel wonderful looking back on this time? What would you regret if you didn’t do?
Then as I discussed in my New Year’s post, visualize the steps that will get you there and if you know people who are role models who could inspire you. This includes following thought leaders in your professional field, industry, and related to your personal aspirations (e.g. if you have fitness or parenting goals) who you could follow on twitter, facebook, google plus, or other online forums. Who could you learn from?
Here’s to a successful, fulfilling (school) year ahead doing whatever is most meaningful to you!
Are you solving problems for your customers, clients, and members or focusing on your organization’s needs instead?
While it can be tempting to wax poetically about how wonderful our products, services, and organizations are, our customers, clients, and members care about what they need, not what we have to offer. What are they worrying about? What aggravates them? How can we make their lives easier? Save them time and money?
Keeping up with what your customers want and need and how your organization can solve their problems is pivotal to success. What that answer is inevitably changes over time. That’s why evolving offerings and services continuously to meet changing needs that you regularly gauge is so critical. And letting go of what isn’t resonating anymore.
Once you have found great solutions to your customers’ needs then it becomes much easier to use clear consistent messaging and engaging story telling to spread the word about the benefits of your products and services. Which kinds of customer problems you are going to solve flows from your mission and what you hopefully have already identified as your organization’s unique competitive advantage.
No matter how zippy or eye catching our slogan or graphics, if we are not taking care of what our customers need, someone else will inevitably step in who will. What steps are you taking to solve your customer’s problems and communicate what you are doing to help them?
When you think about what would ideally fulfill you personally and professionally, what does it look like? Can you visualize what success would feel like, what you would experience?
What are the key steps it would take to get you there? What things are holding you back? New Year’s is the perfect time to step back and think about what is most important to you, what would give you the most satisfaction, and what the road map would be to get there.
Visualizing can be a powerful tool to thoughtfully reflect on what would bring us joy and fulfillment – whether it is personal wealth, starting a new business or changing careers, meeting an organizational vision or target (e.g. increasing revenues or specific segments of donors, members, clients, customers), balancing spending truly quality time with your family, and/or meeting personal fitness goals. Brainstorming and creativity techniques like mind mapping can be useful to articulate your ideas and vision.
Can you think of people who have achieved similar goals or who you admire that you can turn to for advice and encouragement? This can include people you personally know and people you would like to get to know – including thought leaders in your field you can follow on twitter, google plus, facebook, et al to soak up their philosophy and thought processes.
Are there things you are doing now that just use time that you could use to fulfill your dreams and vision? Whether endless meetings that don’t bring you closer to your dreams or enhance your team’s collaborations, or the allure of mindless email or other time wasters, curtailing them can help buy us the time we need to meet our personal and professional goals.
Here is to a very successful – and most importantly – fulfilling and joyful 2012 spent pursuing our dreams and what is truly most important to us. What are you envisioning for 2012?
Posted in Career Advice, Change Management, Inspiration, Leadership, Personal Growth
Tagged association, entrepreneur, management, nonprofit, planning, productivity, small business, time management
Today change is the only constant. The world is in perpetual motion just as most of us are. If we are too distracted by the endless day-to-day tasks to keep an eye on the whole picture we can lose sight of critical trends, technologies, and changes that will affect our future.
What are the trends and issues that most impact your profession, industry, organization, and customers? What are the best sources for not only tracking but anticipating the changes that will affect your organization and ultimately your career? Are you reserving some time for reflection about these issues?
Continuously seek opportunities to learn, read, and talk to customers and key influencers in your field. Watch what both thought leaders and up and coming dynamic newcomers in your profession and industry are saying and doing.
Embrace with enthusiasm that change is an ongoing part of the fabric of our lives. Change is constantly unfolding around us whether we like it or not. So finding excitement and natural optimism in the opportunities that change can bring to our careers and businesses will surely be more satisfying than worrying about negative aspects of having to learn new things or resisting letting go of aspects of your business or products that are no longer successful. None of us want to be a case example of the alternative (aka Borders and Blockbusters).
Over the generations, it is the people who have embraced the new technologies of the Thomas Edisons and Alexander Graham Bells who have truly impacted their worlds. It is the unique thinkers like Warren Buffet who recognize the paradigm breaking technologies to invest in or capitalize on for their world. We like to say that things are changing more than ever today. While the speed of change has increased, dramatic change has affected most every generation. Think how the world felt before and after electricity, the telephone, and indoor plumbing.
What new ideas and strategies can you find in the demographic, technology, and social changes you see happening in your slice of the world that can drive new business? How can you use what you are learning to anticipate your customers, members, or clients’ needs and problems and solve them? What will solve their problems and wow them will undoubtedly be different next year than what it was last year. Are you staying on top of the curve to anticipate those needs?