I had the pleasure of helping my daughter’s class with their “Writers Workshop” program today. It was so much fun to be amongst 8 and 9 year old children as they brainstormed ideas and turned them into stories. I was amazed at the level of creativity and enthusiasm amongst the children when they struck upon inspiration.
One particular girl inspired me. She was sitting alone with her blank paper, pencil poised. I asked her what she was going to write about and she said she had no idea and didn’t know where to start. A simple question got her thinking… ”what types of activities are you doing that make you smile?” She grabbed her pencil, looking hopeful, and asked, “Can we brainstorm together?” So that is what we did. She happened upon her topic 4 items into her list of things that make her smile. She started to explain that she and her Dad were watching the March Madness series together. She quickly realized that her inspiration came from something she was already doing. She exclaimed, “WOW! I can’t believe I had that great topic already and I didn’t even realize it!” Bang… she started writing and within 20 minutes, she had her first draft. She was all smiles, and so was I.
What does this have to do with marketing and business development? Lots… when faced with a relationship that needs refreshing or a desire to make a point of contact, but you don’t know how to begin… start brainstorming on things you are doing NOW. Start jotting down notes about activities you enjoy, upcoming events or matters you are working on. Talk with your colleagues, a coach or spouse to get the ideas flowing and a spark will catch. Write those sparks down and turn them into a plan. Don’t be afraid to adjust direction with a client or prospect if it will lead you to a deeper relationship, or a meaningful information for that person. You may just find yourself inspired in a new way that could result in a positive outcome.
It feels like it has been dreary in New England for months, but every now and then I glimpse a tiny spot of sunshine. That sunshine feels like a huge break. How is it possible that 5 minutes of bright, clear sky can change your whole outlook? Business development is not much different. It takes months, many times much longer, to build relationships that will bring future business. Then all of a sudden one day, you get your break and some work comes in. That win feels so good. During those long stretches, how can we stay focused on our goals? Try these few tips:
- Write down some well defined goals. Take time to think through your goals, write them down and keep them accessible. When you feel that you are wavering, take a few minutes to review those goals. Make sure they are still pertinent and then assess how far you have come in your progress. Identify the next step you need to take to get there.
- Break down the goals into small, attainable steps. High-level goals can seem unattainable unless you have actionable steps to reach it. Feeling bogged down one day– choose one, small step to accomplish. We are talking one phone call to a targeted person or posting a Linked In status. Don’t expect yourself to write a multi-page business plan in one morning. Keep it small and reasonable.
- Track your progress routinely. By tracking progress, you will have a clear picture of what you have done and what is left to do.
- Reward yourself. When you reach specific milestones, sit back and bask in your success. Collect a personal reward that is meaningful to you. That may mean taking a full lunch hour to yourself, grabbing that fancy latte or picking up the latest best selling book. Don’t feel guilty– it is good to recognize work well done.
If you repeat this process, over time you will see that you create a positive business development habit. It is hard work, but it does pay off in the long run.
I have noticed a trend across all of my business and casual relationships. When I ask how they are doing, the universal answer seems to be “I am crazy busy.” This is usually followed up with a litany of things that this poor soul must endure over a short time frame. I am no different. I have felt the dramatic increase in my own pace in recent times. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it does make me worry about missing the moments that make life enjoyable. So, how can we take control of our time? I find creating “TO DO” lists to be very powerful in easing the panic about ‘getting it all done’. At the very minimum, this act removes items from ‘my head’ and moves it into a concrete place. Whether using an electronic or old fashioned paper list, this classic tool is a great stress reducer. A few things to consider:
- Make a master list of everything you want to accomplish. Then break down each goal into actionable bullets with honest deadlines. This process helps you to assess what really must be done today and what can really wait to tomorrow (or never!).
- At the beginning of each day, do something to move you closer to crossing an item off the list. By accomplishing action items early in the day, you gain a sense of control and accomplishment that can drive your entire day. Overwhelmed as to where to start– pick an easy one for your immediate frame of mind.
- Schedule a time for everything you do in a defined period of time. Either do this daily, 10 minute increments, or take 30 minutes in the beginning of your week to plan out your time and ‘must do’ items for the week. This routine brings forth a realistic picture of your week. Don’t let it overwhelm you– use this process to calm your mind and provide a sense of control. Don’t forget to leave time for breaks– lunch, exercise, etc… these are all part of creating a healthier you!
- Try to keep your focus on the important things by eliminating the unimportant items. It is easy to think that everything HAS to happen. Ask yourself the straightforward question… what will happen to me, my family or relationships if I don’t do this item right now. Usually the true answer is not life or business threatening.
- Say NO (nicely)! Sometimes you just have to say no to relatively unimportant activities. Be honest that you would love to help, but you just can’t make it work at this time. People are usually understanding and respect people who have the ability to say no nicely.
I hope these tips help you plan your time. Gain more control over your time through clearly identifying what are ‘must do’ items. Once you have them selected, carefully write down the small steps that help you reach those goals. Once you let go of the stress that accompanies our frantic lives, you may just have a calm sense of accomplishment about you! Good luck!