It's approaching that time of year – my personal favourite time of year (New Year's Eve) – when I become even more reflective than I usually am. That sound you can hear now is the smashing of a dropped cup at my colleague's astonishment about how “more reflective” is even possible, but I digress.
What my current bout of navel gazing has brought to the fore today is a question about SEO and keyword strategies. The vast majority of us understand, accept and devote huge quantities of time and money on Search Engine Optimisation and keyword optimisation, for their websites and online marketing, but how many of us apply Self Enhancing Optimisation principles to ourselves? We spend time and money eagerly to make our online presence the best that it can be, but do we consider ourselves worthy of the same – or greater than - attentive care?
Within the past week I was contacted by my mentee “Natalie”, who was asking for my advice about a time management issue she was juggling. In a nutshell, Natalie's work commitments have started to increase dramatically, it was a Saturday and Natalie was conflicted because she still had much to complete on her To Do list, but was tired and wanted to recharge with her family.
In summary my advice was that she couldn't pour from an empty cup, and that rest and recuperation were just as essential to her business and well-being as action and progress. To disregard her mental and physical tiredness was a fast track to burnout, and ain't nobody got time for that – it's a false economy. Furthermore, to adopt a policy of pressing ahead, disregarding her fatigue, Natalie was also opening herself up to the possibility of eventually resenting the business; for all that she would perceive it had taken from her (i.e.: the best years of her life, quality time with her kids, the potential impact on her relationships etc). If Natalie didn't find the optimal work-life balance, then her family may also end up resenting the business, because they would only ever be offered her exhausted husk. In short, Natalie's depleted energy must be replenished, so that she could come out swinging on Monday morning. Natalie herself had to be optimised before she could further optimise her business; you can't pour from an empty cup.
So, Natalie was fully encouraged to rest, but there were more questions raised from her initial advice-seeking question than answered:
I asked Natalie to consider if she could identify any areas during her past week in which her time could have been better optimised. It's too easy to become caught up on a conveyor belt of task completion, without stopping to think if this is the most effective use of your time. Are there tasks you could outsource, delegate (to a competent associate), or even file under B1N?
Have there been instances where you have fallen victim to the temptations of a Time Vampire (i.e.: friends phoning/visiting for a chat, or undisciplined access to social media and email etc)? Say a polite but firm “Not now” to distractions. If you have friends and family who believe that because you work for yourself, they can drop in on you whenever it's convenient for them, explain to them that you are at work and will catch up with them in your private time. If you do not maintain and respect your own boundaries, you cannot expect anyone to maintain and respect them for you. As for online distractions, simply allocate a couple of i.e.: 20 minutes a day to reply to emails and check social media, and make full use of Facebook's scheduler to manage the majority of your posts. There are even internet blocking apps you can use, if you really need help with a distraction addiction.
What lessons can be learned from what's left on your To Do list? Are your overall priorities and goals reflected by what's been completed, and what's still left to do? Are you clear and certain about what needs to be done, and what needs to be left undone? Would you like some help with this?
Are you optimising the scheduling of important, concentration-thirsty tasks for when you can best get them done, whilst leaving more routine tasks until later, when you're more tired and thwarted from the day's events? In my personal experience, I will get up early to complete my concentration-thirsty and/or marketing tasks, leaving the non-essential stuff for later in the day when interruptions and distractions are more likely. This effective time management affords me family time, the wondrous delights of the school run and the peace of mind to know my essential tasks are complete when I'm spending time with clients. Whatever you're doing, whenever you're doing it, be all there and completely engaged in the task until it's done.
Plan tomorrow before you finish tonight. The day is not over until tomorrow is planned. This method gives you a clear run at the new day, so you can hit the ground running. Rather than spending valuable time thinking about what needs to be done in the morning, you can get on with actually doing it!
At this point the Self Enhancing Optimisation needs to kick in. Why are you working so many hours on the enhancement of your work/business, and then not working to improve yourself, your life and your relationships also? Take the holistic view; by optimising yourself you will automatically optimise your work /business; how could the beneficial effects not filter through?
THIS WILL HELP...
So, let me ask you to do this simple, but thought provoking, exercise. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and sit quietly in your own energy for a while. Draw a line down the centre of the page, creating two columns. In the left column, please write down all of the keywords that apply to you now. Please don't be tempted to complete this task flippantly, or as quickly as possible, because I'm asking you to connect with your deeper self.
Once you feel you have completed the “I Am” column, move on to the next, “I Will Be” column. In your “I Will Be” column, please write down all the keywords for what you want to be – and be specific. Don't just write “richer”, “thinner”, “healthier” without any further quantification. If you will be richer, write in brackets how much money you will have earned/saved/invested and by when. Likewise thinner – how much weight will you have lost, by when? Vague goals produce vague results, so get as specific as you can possibly can by following the How Much, By When principle.
Now you have detailed to yourself what you “Will Be”, you have a blueprint for how to actually make it happen. You will now know which books to read, which seminars/courses to sign up for, how many miles to run, whose acquaintance to make, who to recruit and what funding you will need. You've just told yourself how you want the jigsaw puzzle of your life to look, so now you have to go and collect the pieces and then fit them together
This is such a simple and effective method, but it's often more difficult getting people to sit in the quiet and really think about where they're going, and what they want, than it is to ask them to work harder. Working hard is an essential ingredient for success, but working smarter ensures you don't kill yourself en route. Optimise yourself and everything you do, apply mindfulness and don't allow yourself to get stuck on a treadmill of being busy. Stop and ask yourself; busy doing what?
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