11 Tips For Overworked Professionals Craving Meaningful Change
By CJ McClanahan
When was the last time you were frustrated with your progress on something? The last time you felt completely unmotivated or uninspired. If you’re like most people, chances are this feeling is all too familiar.
Getting stuck in a rut is a part of life and business that we rarely, if ever, account for. Let me tell you, as a coach, one of the worst feelings is when a client says they feel like that have no purpose, either in their career or personal life. While there is no shortage of self-help gurus and motivational speakers to turn to for advice, they frequently skip over the part with practical strategies that can be implemented quickly.
When you find yourself inevitably struggling to make meaningful change, here are handful of tactics proven to generate momentum and help you feel better about their personal and professional lives.
1. Prioritize lead generation.
Injecting new business or qualified leads into the sales pipeline provide new and exciting opportunities. With new opportunities comes new people, ideas, learning experiences, problems to solve which can reinvigorate a purpose on life support.
TRY THIS – Schedule breakfast/lunch/happy hour with your best client and ask them what they appreciate most about your services or product(s).Ask them if they know of anyone who could benefit from working with you, and when they say “yes”, ask them if they would be willing to refer you. As long as you are providing great value, your clients will be happy to help you.
2. Eliminate “multitasking” from your vocabulary.
There’s a famous saying the goes “We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can do in ten years.” Ask any working adult and they will confirm this is true.
However, most people experience a 40% productivity loss every day by attempting to multitask everything. We all try it, and we all fail miserably. Begin reducing distractions and opportunities to become distracted.
TRY THIS: If you have an office, set aside time where your door is shut with something signaling “Do Not Disturb.” If you just have a desk, try implementing the red-yellow-green system. In all but very few cases, disable notifications on your phone, desktop, smartwatch or any other device that can become a distraction. In addition, set aside specific times where you check emails, rather than keeping your inbox pulled up in an active tab on your internet browser.
3. Think only about today.
For some, uncertainty is something that makes life thrilling and beautiful. For far more others, however, uncertainty is major source of stress, anxiety and depression.
Our minds tend to run wild when we indulge in the future and focus on the negative when look into the past. We can’t control either, but we can give them meaning by thriving in the present.
TRY THIS: First, no matter what’s going on in your life, do your very best to focus exclusively on the moment. Don’t agonize over the past or go and borrow trouble from tomorrow or next week. Second, try deep breathing exercises. This will slow your heartbeat and reduce stress almost immediately.
4. Get employees to concentrate on their personal goals.
Problems within teams do more than derail progress. When not addressed appropriately and in a timely manner, team and even company morale can take a negative turn. Good employees turn bitter and leave, management becomes less effective, and company revenue stagnates or worse takes a nosedive.
Instead, refocus on how the company’s goals align with each employee’s goals and reinforce how they support each other in making meaningful change on all accounts.
TRY THIS: Be the one leader/manager/supervisor in their career that finds out exactly what each of your direct reports wants to achieve. Setup a meeting to review the following questions – “Fast forward and imagine that your career has progressed perfectly… How much are you earning? What are you doing? What are you learning?”
5. Create a vivid (and strategic) Vision.
Throughout history, champions have often mentioned how mental visualization prepares them for the big race/game/competition/battle and plays a major factor in the outcome. The visions become so real that when the time comes, they have already won in their mind hundreds on times.
Creating a vivid vision works for both individuals and within organizations. The difference is that for companies the vivid vision should be a living document that is revisited frequently by everyone in the organization.
TRY THIS: Set aside 1-2 hours with at least one of your most trusted advisors (or team members if you own a company) and ask them to brainstorm (no conclusions, just get as many ideas on paper as possible) around the following question – Fast forward 3 years and imagine you are enthusiastically describing your business/career to someone else, what would you want to say? What’s the lighting like in the room? What kind of snacks are there? What’s your day look like to a visitor?
6. Dial in your annual goals.
On January 1, hundreds of millions of people around the globe resolve to make big changes in their lives. They tell themselves that this year will be different,… but nothing ever does.
Instead of giving themselves a shot at achieving their desires, they self-sabotage any chance to make meaningful change in their lives. In the process, they resolve they aren’t good at setting or reaching goals, thus perpetuating a never-ending cycle of failure.
TRY THIS: Write down your 5 most important professional goals that you’d like to achieve this year, using the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Framework). Next pick the ONE that’s the most important. Write this goal on a sticky note and place it on your monitor. Look at it every day and ask yourself what you can do today to move you closer to it.
7. Face production and/or service issues head-on.
People aren’t perfect and processes never are either. While no one likes to admit it, but you are going to deliver subpar results from time to time, and piss off a customer or two. That’s okay.
In fact, if you don’t upset someone here and there, you aren’t doing enough.
TRY THIS: Get your team in a room (or just go to Starbucks if you work by yourself) and remind everyone that we’re not in the widget/accounting/etc. business. All that matters is that we exceed customer’s expectations. To do that we need to properly set expectations, remind the customer when they forget, and let them know when we’re done.
8. Develop your ideal buyer (client) persona.
There’s a saying that “when you try to please everyone, you please no one.” A hundred years ago you might be able to try this, but in the current climate, businesses have to be more targeted with their messaging than ever before.
With billions of people having access to the world’s wealth of information 24/7/365, consumers are more educated than at any time in history, and this trend is only going to continue.
TRY THIS: Define your ideal client in as much detail as possible (they appreciate you, refer you business, etc.). Get rid of your clients who are the exact opposite of this description and raise your prices on those that fit it.
9. Define your ideal team-member and acquire talent.
Nothing is more important to the health of your business than your people. Human capital is truly the final frontier. In a world of hyper-commoditization, the companies that have the best people win.
You aren’t going to hire any ol’ Joe off the street, and creating teams with unqualified employees or those without the right skills for the project is only to cause problems.
TRY THIS: Put together a detailed description of the ideal candidate and remember that you’re always recruiting these types of people – you can’t just wait until someone quits. Also, make sure you can answer the question the best candidates will ask – “Why is this the best place for me to advance my career?”
10. Respect time management as a process.
Increasingly efficient technologies, procedures, and devices allow us to do more today than ever before in history. However, the work they’ve created in the process grows at a faster rate than we can accomplish it. Therefore, every day we have more to do than the day before, and making meaningful change feels harder than ever.
Gone are the days of the separating work from life. Now “work-life balance” is about intentionally setting limits on the time you spend on work and learning to be more efficient and productive.
TRY THIS: You’re most productive when your brain is focused. As a result, you need to reduce distractions. So, when you’re working on an item that requires your careful attention, turn off email, shut your door and don’t answer the phone.
11. Play to your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Unless your name is Leonardo da Vinci, there’s nearly a 100% chance you aren’t great at everything. If you are reading this, you were probably told from a young age that it’s important to work on your weaknesses. This is only partially true.
In the modern era, you can delegate or outsource the tasks or skills you’re not uniquely qualified for (or like) to, instead, focus on the areas where you excel. In fact, new data reveals that you’re more likely to reach the optimal outcome when you are focused on what you do best.
TRY THIS: Right now it’s likely you have half a dozen (or more) uncompleted projects sitting on your desk going nowhere. Look at each of these projects and rate them on a scale of 1-10 (1= doesn’t matter at all, 10 = the business will implode if this doesn’t get done). Put Anything rated below 7 in a “back-burner” file to be worked on when you can delegate it to someone else.
Making meaningful changes that have the potential to disrupt your ingrained habits is no less than a monumental feat, but people do it every day, and so can you. Any significant achievement takes time and intentionality.
There are truly are no shortcuts. And as you continue to take deliberate action toward a brighter, more joy filled career and life, you’ll gather momentum… but it’s getting started that is always the hardest part.