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Self Development

4 Quick Ways to Help You Stay Focused

Have you written yet another to-do list, hoping it would make you more productive?

Jason Womack

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How to Stay Focused

I can imagine you from here: rewriting projects that have been hanging on – even forwarding an email to yourself to kick it back to the top of your inbox. This isn’t productivity. It is a waste of time and, worse, a waste of focus.

Let me show you how you can regain control effectively. Each of the activities below is designed to get you focused on success and give you a shortcut to a more productive day. Pick any one of these prompts, grab your favourite pen and a notebook, and watch your day get better:

1. Make a list of your best customers.

Remember learning about the Pareto Principle in high school economics? If you need a refresher, it’s also known as the 80-20 rule – the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your resources. That means 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers and 80% of your sales come from 20% of your products.

What does this have to do with writing exercises? Make a list of all the customers you’ve done business with recently. Get this list to 50 or even 100 names.

Then identify the top 10 to 20 customers who bring you repeat business, refer you to others and are most enjoyable to work with. Over the next month, find several ways to cultivate deeper relationships and referral partnerships with them.

Next to each customer name, write a list of three to five things you could do within four weeks to capitalise on that relationship. For example:

  • Invite them to a special event.
  • Subscribe them to one of your favourite magazines as a gift.
  • Call to thank them for being a customer.

2. Write a letter to a vendor.

We live in an acknowledgment-starved society. When was the last time you wrote to someone new to your network? I don’t mean an email or an invitation to join you in one of your social media communities. I mean an actual letter.

I have a daily routine: Each day I write one handwritten thank you card to someone I have met, worked with or received help from that week. I don’t expect anything in return (no, I don’t include a business card in the envelope). I simply want to let them know I appreciate them. Try this over the next month and see what happens.

With this tip, I’m going at a deeper meaning of what it means to me to “be productive.” I know my efforts today may not result in immediate new business. By doing this kind of writing, I give those people another touch point.

When I visit clients I have advised over the past decade, I have literally seen my cards on their walls or desks. I can’t help thinking: “On their desk, on their mind.”

3. Create an inventory of what’s not working.

It’s time to be honest with yourself, your team, your funders and your customers. Ask yourself: “What is getting in my way of being as effective as I can be?” Write down the answers so you see them in black and white.

Once you have this list, you can reach out to a mentor or business coach and schedule time for a conversation. By objectifying and then discussing these kinds of topics with someone you look to for support, you open yourself up to learning something new.

4. Write a first draft of an ideal day.

I have written about many “ideal days:” days at work, days on vacation, days visiting friends, days racing a triathlon. Set a timer and for 15 minutes, write about a day in the future you could imagine going exceptionally well. What does it look, sound and feel like? Who is there? What are they doing? Are you wearing a special outfit?

The purpose of writing this in detail is to get your mind working toward outcomes that may seem fantastic now, but which will come true in the near to long-term future. The energy you create in writing these things down may just carry you into a more productive day.

Jason W. Womack is founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He is author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012). He works with entrepreneurs as an advisor, coaching them to their next level of success.

Self Development

Trust, But Don’t Be Stupid. Get Agreements!

Everyone has been disappointed at some time in their lives, and often by the people you least expected it from. Trust is not given, it is earned. But even after being earned, don’t be naïve about it. Temper that trust with a splash of cynicism regarding the human race.

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There are many entrepreneurs who have lost everything because they placed all their trust in a certain individual or group of people. Accountants and financial directors have stolen millions from entrepreneurs who trusted them with their banking. Sales reps and account managers have made businesses go into liquidation after taking all the customers or key accounts. Business partners who you trusted with your life — the godparents of your children! — left with your business and hard-earned cash, laughing all the way.

Business is a funny thing and money makes people react in unpredictable ways. Business people are still just people. And not all of them are awesome. Agreements were invented for this very reason.

The smart entrepreneurs protect themselves against these possibilities. As a basic principle, draft and conclude proper agreements with everyone you do business with. Include restraint of trade clauses with employees, partners and suppliers. Set up internal controls in the company to ensure that no one individual is allowed to make payments or have access to cash.

Never rely on customers to fulfil their promises and don’t take risks that could sink you. Customers often over-promise and under-deliver, so be careful with their credit terms and ensure that there are proper agreements in place in case anything should go wrong.

These are all basic principles in business and most corporates will comply with them but the SME owner wants to hustle and conclude the deal. That’s a shaky tightrope to walk when you don’t have piles of cash to cushion the fall.

Related: Understanding Shareholder Agreements

Essential agreements

As a bare minimum, you need to ensure that you have the following agreements in place to help you run your business effectively and protect against any disputes that may arise as your company grows:

1. Ownership

Despite being sure that the relationship will last, it’s wise to prepare for the worst. A partnership or shareholder agreement sets out the responsibilities of each party and the procedures for settling conflicts. It also sets the terms and mitigates risks for all involved should one party wish to exit the agreement.

2. Employees

Employment agreements regulate the relationship with your employees and help to avoid misunderstandings and disputes. They regulate leave, working hours, deductions, termination, etc. The last thing you ever want, is to end up at the CCMA without an employment agreement in place.

3. Customers

A sales agreement sets the framework for delivery (inclusions and exclusions) and payment expectations. It creates a shared understanding between you and your client. When everything is working, no one ever refers to a contract. When there’s a problem, you can have endless disputes or simply refer to an agreement both parties signed.

Related: Supplier Agreements – Do I Need A Written Agreement?

4. Suppliers or subcontractors

When you depend on suppliers or subcontractors to fulfil your service obligations, you should definitely mitigate risks and protect your intellectual property. Have an agreement that stipulates delivery or performance requirements, includes a confidentiality and restraint of trade clause, and specifies how and when payments will be made. Most importantly, include provisions for rights and the action you can take if any part of this agreement fails.

The point of having agreements in place is to protect your business interests. There is little use in a contract that can’t be legally enforced. Having an attorney draw up your agreements may seem expensive, possibly over the top, but it will go a long way to ensuring that you can avoid legal proceedings in the long run.

Don’t be pennywise, pound foolish. Get the right agreements in place and protect yourself! Trust, but don’t be stupid about it.

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Self Development

Will You Make The Right Decision?

Our lives are an accumulation of the decisions we make, both big and small. Improve your decision-making process, and you’ll improve every aspect of your life and business.

Erik Kruger

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“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” — Paulo Coelho

Much of what I do in coaching is to help my clients gain clarity around the decisions they make. Every day we must make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions. Some of them are big and will have a dramatic impact on our personal and business lives. Others are small and made automatically without us paying much attention to them.

No matter how big or small a decision is, it pays to have a clear intention for why you are choosing a specific course of action.

After all, our lives are an accumulation of the decisions we make. The small and the big ones.

1. The Values Link

Society has conditioned us to think of success mostly in terms of achievement. This means that when faced with a decision about your future, you should take the option that would potentially deliver more money, more certainty, and more stuff.

I have often spoken to clients who think they want something, but it turns out to be a temporary infatuation. Once the emotional high wears off they realise that the shiny object was merely a distraction.

Related: 6 Common Decision-Making Blunders That Could Kill Your Business

So, one of the best things you can do is to first create some distance from the decision you have to make. However, this is not always possible. In such cases I talk to my clients about the Values Link.

Essentially, we are trying to see which decision will link best to your values (current and future). I recently met with a great business coach to discuss potential collaborations. Our coaching differs in many ways. One of the key ways is that he has an awesome office where clients come to meet him and I do all my coaching digitally.

Leaving the meeting I had some office envy. I immediately started looking at To Let signs and googling office spaces to rent. I could see in my mind how my office space would look. Leather chairs. A wall filled with books. A tray with crystal glasses and premium whisky.

When the emotional high died down I realised it was not what I wanted at all. Conducting all my work digitally is exactly what I want because I value my freedom and mobility. This is not to say he doesn’t value these things, it just means that we prioritise and action our values differently. Be aware though that making decisions in this manner requires you to know what your values are.

2. Visualise the future

Visualisation is a great tool with many applications. Something I often ask my clients to do is to spend time visualising the possible outcomes of the decision they have to make.

I am not talking about a quick glimpse of what it may look like. I mean immersing yourself in it and feeling it.

What does it feel like when you have unhinged yourself from a certain commitment? What does it feel like when you have a new opportunity in front of you?

Try and visualise yourself into a day in the future and feel what it feels like. Sounds weird but you should try it!

3. Binary is boring

Many of us think that a decision is choosing between X or Y. In reality it could mean choosing between X, Y, Z, A, or B.

There is a paradox here. Research has shown that we make better decisions when we limit the amount of options we must choose between. However, do not limit yourself unnecessarily.

Use this paradox to your advantage. Take the time to be creative before making a decision and create as many different scenarios as you can. Create extreme versions of the decision, look for the middle ground, look at it from above and below. Generate possibilities.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Make Good Decisions Quickly

Once you have done that, eliminate as many options until only the most useful ones remain. You do this by linking it back to your values and by checking the decisions against other criteria that you have determined.

Decisions that count

Decision-making is your most powerful tool for creating a bright future.

So, take care of the decisions you make, and they will take care of you. Remember above all to bring intention to every action and decision and watch the magic happen.

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Self Development

Make A New Start In 2019

It’s nearly the start of a new year, and possibly a wise time to take stock of your life. Whether you are ready for a complete change or just want to take stock and empower or tweak one or more areas of your life.

Dr John Demartini

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People fall into a rut whenever what they do on a daily basis doesn’t align with their true highest values and offer satisfaction and meaning. A rut is a by-product of not giving yourself permission to go after what you truly want in life. The result? You feel trapped in something that is not fully gratifying and fulfilling.

Here are some tips to help you make a new start…

1. Work out what is truly most important to you

When your daily actions do not align with your highest values, you won’t be eager to get up in the morning. So what could you wisely do? Be sure you know what your top three highest values are – what is truly most important to you. For example, ask yourself:

  • What energises you at work or at home?
  • What is it that you love doing each day that also serves others?
  • What do you always find money for and to do?
  • In a social situation, what do you most frequently desire to talk about?
  • What are the top three goals you’re persistently keen to achieve?

Pay close attention to what you are inspired by and what you spontaneously do each day and you will discover what you value most. Creating a life around your highest priorities and strategising your day in such a way to fulfill that is powerful.

Related: The Future Is Now – Ecommerce Retail Trends For 2019

2. Learn from your past reactions or actions

Although it’s unwise to dwell on the past and beat yourself up about any previous decisions, it is wise to reflect on what has most and least worked for you and view your previous actions as helpful feedback content for refinement. This can help you identify what might work more effectively for you in the future. For example, if your personal relationship is tense at the moment, is may be because you are projecting your personal values on to them and unwisely expecting them to live outside their own highest values. Or they may be doing this to you. Or you both may be doing this to each other.

If this is the case, perhaps it would be wise to ask yourself how is what they are dedicated to serving you and how is what you are dedicated to serving them? If you ask and answer those questions 20 times each you will end up with more communicative dialogues and less alternating monologues and tension.

If you applied for a new job and didn’t get or land it, take a look at what you might have done to get such a result, and what refinements you can do differently next time to help you get your desired outcome. Be honest with yourself. Then, think about how a different more refined outlook or action could help you achieve your desired outcome.

3. Learn to be SMART

SMART stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. You can apply these goals to both your personal and professional lives.

For instance, instead of setting a goal such as falling in love this year, rather consider a more likely or attainable goal. Subscribe to an online dating website, or ask your friends to set you up with someone. You could also join new groups and activities where you can meet new people. Or simply prioritise your actions, do what you love and live authentically, which is most attractive to someone who will match you. Then measure your success in attaining your goal by how many new people you meet and how productive and inspired you are.

Set realistic goals with actions you have true control over.

Related: Finish The Year Strong To Carry Momentum Into 2019

Set achievable goals, not improbable or unlikely ones! An example of an improbable goal is deciding that you’re going to win the lottery for wealth building purposes. Instead of this, which has a very small chance of coming true, why not look at your financial house and get it into order? Budget to save money to achieve your goal of having more, and also budget to spend money on appreciable investments more than depreciable consumables.  Serve more and earn more so you can save more and invest more.

Also, don’t set yourself a radical goal to lose half your body weight in an unrealistic time frame – this may be unwise, unhealthy and unrealistic. Rather set yourself a more realistic goal of say, losing a kilo every week or fortnight, something that is more probable. Be realistic with your goals, rather than trying to achieve something unattainable. And don’t expect a quick fix. Rather set yourself smaller, more achievable goals, and then, when you meet them, you’ll feel more inspired to continue to expand them further.

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