Category Archives: Thinking Differently

What I learned about delegating work and gaining time

Editor’s Note: It’s my pleasure to introduce Andy Goldberg as a contributor to the Beyond Startup blog. I’m excited to share his unique approach to entrepreneurial law, as well as his own insights as a fellow entrepreneur. Enjoy!

More Time, Just AheadWhat did you learn about yourself and your business in 2014? For me, in 2014, my first year of entrepreneurship, I learned a lot about delegation do’s and don’ts.

In developing this skill, I had to overcome a natural barrier to delegating. Like many entrepreneurs I did not think delegating was important. If I had even a few extra minutes in a day to get the job done, there was no reason to delegate. Other self-imposed roadblocks included:

  •  I always felt I could do the work better than others; and
  •  It would take me less time to do the work than teach somebody to do it (or maybe I just lacked confidence in my assistant).

However, I quickly changed. For me, I had to delegate to free up my mental energy to focus on tasks truly important to making my practice grow. My mind was full of so many menial tasks to be done, I could not even prioritize;  I had paralysis in starting and doing anything. Other reasons why I now delegate include:

  • I want my assistant to learn new skills (a crucial factor in job satisfaction);
  • It’s a repetitive task I don’t want to keep doing;
  • I can take time to look at the big picture of my practice; and
  • I can focus on only those areas where I add the most value to my business.

Techniques I Learned To Delegate More Effectively 

Along the way, I discovered a few ways to delegate more effectively. First, I stopped telling my assistant how to do the task (which simply resulted in her parroting my actions).  Now, I share past experiences and discuss what has worked and what hasn’t’ and then allow my assistant to accomplish the task how she best sees fit.  It’s the result that matters, not how you get there.

I learned asking someone to do something is much different than telling them what the result should be. Now, I give a clear example of what a good result would look like. For instance, preparing a document with specific information or an action plan, speaking with a client to gain certain information, or putting together specific information in a certain format.

For bigger projects, I break it down into smaller tasks. We agree on specific checkpoints to make sure we stay on track.

I make sure I’m available to give feedback or alter the course.  Assigning a task and walking away in is not delegating, it’s abdicating.

However, there are tasks that I still don’t delegate. These include:

  • Tasks that need immediate attention; and
  • Tasks crucial to the long-term success of my practice.

2015 Goals

I hope you can start 2015 by delegating small, easy tasks. Then, as you can get more comfortable, delegate more complex tasks. Your goal should be to make sure you are only doing that which is most valuable to your business and leads its growth. I hope these ideas make 2015 your best year yet.

Have you Given Yourself a Career Wellness Checkup?

Editors note: What are the keys to achievement? What is the secret that makes some leaders a great success? Often, it’s as simple as being focused on the big picture – at work, and in life. These questions posed by fellow coach, Robert Pasick, are a great starting point for checking in on your current alignment with your long-term goals.730

achivement_street_sign
Recently, I have been doing Career Wellness Checkups with my current and former clients. I have found that, just as we have a yearly checkup with our doctors to try to detect health issues that may be arising or have been overlooked, we can benefit by giving ourselves a yearly career review. This is different than a performance review where we are limited to feedback from our supervisor on how we are performing on our job. Here are some of the questions that I have been asking them to consider. I would suggest answering these questions and then reviewing them with a friend or advisor. Of course, I would be happy to consult with you, if you wish.

  • Are you earning as much money as you think you deserve?
  • Are you feeling fully engaged in your work?
  • Are you working at a level where you feel like you are reaching your full potential?
  • Are you achieving as much as you want to achieve?
  • Are you working with the type of people you respect and enjoy?
  • Are you passionate about the work you are doing?
  • Are you utilizing your unique talents much of the time?
  • Are you working in a career which embodies your values?
  • Are you working for a company and a supervisor whom you respect?
  • Is your level of stress reasonable or excessive?
  • Do you have a stretch goal that would enable you to move to the next level in your career?

I am working on putting together a Career Wellness Workshop for the beginning of August, please let me know if you would be interested in attending, or if you have other questions which should be included in the Career Wellness Checkup.

[box type=”download”] If you like plans and worksheets, check out the Personal Plan document from the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) for a tool to help you capture your own long term goals. The Personal Plan follows the same framework as the business planning document (the Vision/Traction Organizer) offered by EOS. To download a free copy of the Personal Plan, scroll to the bottom of the downloads list and look for the heading “Additional Tools” to find the personal plan document.[/box]

8 Steps to Email Sanity: How to Work on Company Strategy When You’re Drowning in Email

drowning-in-emailBeing a second stage entrepreneur presents some “interesting” challenges. Among them, how in the heck are you supposed to be able to spend time “working on the business” instead of “in the business” when you are always drowning in email?! Chances are, you can’t get ahead on email even if you stay up half the night, because you’re still getting replies and new emails even as the night wears on. Sound familiar?

Step 1: Take a deep breath.

Step 2: Consider declaring email bankruptcy if you have a truly INSANE amount of unread email (e.g. thousands). The general idea: delete all your email, and the stuff you REALLY have to respond to will resurface. Check out these examples from Gawker Media for more info on how email bankruptcy can work.

Step 3: Stop responding so often. Try limiting email to once or twice a day. I know, I know – this sounds blasphemous. If you’re so behind on email, how could you possibly spend less time doing it?! Trust me on this one – a funny thing happens when people learn you’re not going to respond to your email all the time. They start handling things on their own and finding other options. It’s not that anyone is being lazy or anything of the sort! What I am saying is that you have all adjusted to a status quo that’s not good for you – or ultimately, your company. Check out these samples from Tim Ferris’s blog for a couple of email auto-responders you can copy and implement now to explain your healthy new habit.

[Note: If it’s too painful to stop responding right away, try this baby step. Respond, but schedule the email to be sent later if it’s not truly urgent. You’ll start to help others (and yourself ;-) adjust to a longer response time. See our previous post on how to implement email scheduling with Boomerang for more info.]

Step 4: Start unsubscribing from everything humanly possible. Yes, you could organize everything into folders instead, to read later “when you have time”… (I tried that first, so feel free if you must.) However, email is ultimately a lousy way to satiate your curiosity about anything. Subscribe via social media to things you don’t want to lose (easier to tune in or tune out as you have time and interest), and forget about the rest. The time you save will open opportunities to learn and try new things in the real world. You might discover something new that you like, such as triathlons, and open a whole new chapter of your life! (Speaking from personal experience!) Another way of looking at it:

Get on a strict low-information diet and focus on output instead of input; your wallet and weekends [and your family] will thank you for it. – Tim Ferris

Step 5: Automate your inbox. While it may be a bit un-nerving at first to have things filed for you (lest you miss something important!) the magic of it will quickly become apparent.

  • Sanebox: Free trial; from approximately $2-$20 per month. Works with Gmail, Yahoo! AOL, iCloud, Microsoft Outlook and more.
  • Otherinbox: Free. Works with Gmail, Yahoo! AOL and iCloud.

If I were starting from scratch today, I’d try Sanebox first, even though it’s not free. Their mission is specifically to solve your email challenge, where Otherinbox was recently acquired by a company more interested in improving deliverability than fixing your inbox angst. I also figure if people with inordinate amounts of email such as Robert Scoble are liking Sandbox, then it’s a pretty good sign it’ll work for darn near anyone else.

However, if full automation is too big of a leap and you’re already using Gmail, you have a handful of other streamlining options to try:

  • Smartlabels (under Settings, Labs)
  • Priority Inbox (under Settings, Inbox)
  • Stars (under Settings, General) and Multiple Inboxes (under Settings, Labs)
  • Filters (under Settings, Filters)

Step 6. Take another deep breath. If you’ve done even half of what’s outlined above, you should be starting to get your head above water. Create even more space to breathe with these last two, more strategic tips…

Step 7: Rethink meetings. When you set up the right meeting rhythms and actually get things done during meetings, email magically decreases.

Step 8: Rethink delegation. Delegating so you’re in the middle of fewer conversations also helps to alleviate inbox madness, though admittedly delegation is also a challenge in second stage when everyone is over-busy and tight capital doesn’t necessarily allow you to hire someone to fix it. However, you might be surprised if you ask around who’s willing to help you out. I’ve seen more than one business owner that could have been pushed over by a feather when employees volunteered to take stuff off their list, even when they were already busy. Your employees WANT you to be able to lead! So try asking for help. :-)

Here’s hoping these strategies help you gain control of your inbox – and your business!

What are your favorite hacks for inbox management?

Entrepreneurship and The Hardworking Curse

hardworking-businessman

How can hardworking and curse be in the same sentence, you ask? I bet if you’re an entrepreneur grappling with second stage issues, you’re familiar with this phenomena already. Chances are you got to where you are in part, by being hardworking. And that’s a good thing. You’ve been picking up the slack, noticing what needs to be fixed, spotting the opportunities for growth, all-the-while getting up earlier and staying up later to take care of it all. You’re getting better at squeezing more in to your calendar. You skip lunch when duty calls.

And at some point, you run out of hours in a day. Or energy. Or both. And that’s not such a good thing.

Hence, the Hardworking Curse.

The only way to fix it is to do less. To change your mindset from hardworking to something new. I personally found the idea of working smarter, not harder pretty laughable when in this quandary so I understand if you’re equally doubtful a shift is possible. During that time I read “The 4-Hour Workweek” with such disdain, I completely missed all the neat techniques for learning author Timothy Ferriss shared. But I wouldn’t have remembered his tricks anyway – my decreasing ability to retain the volume of stuff I was reading and exposed to in meetings was getting frustrating. Sound familiar?

I’ll also bet you’re hardworking because you’re driven, and it’s hard to imagine achieving what you want by shifting gears. Don’t fret – I’m not talking about work-life balance kind of stuff – that’s a bunch of bunk for another article. I’m talking about simple, practical stuff you can start doing today.

It’s all about choosing a new lens.

Start asking yourself: What are the 3 most important things I can get done today?

Yes, I know there are somewhere between 20 and 100+ things on your list that must get done today. I get that three sounds ridiculously luxurious and ludicrous all at the same time. Stick with me for another couple of minutes, and I’ll explain.

Yes, you probably will still have to do the vast majority of the stuff on your list today. This won’t be an overnight makeover. (Sorry.) The point here is to get your head up above water long enough to identify three things that will help you reach your long term business goals, and make sure those get done, even if something that’s been nagging you could get done in five minutes has to fall off your plate for the day.

If you don’t have time to figure out three things, or fit them into your already overcrowded day, that’s ok. I get that you’re already strapped. Start with one. The point is to start thinking about things differently. And once you do, I’ll bet the natural rewards of your new focus will do the rest.

What are your three things today?

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Additional Resources:

  • If it’s hard to figure out the three things, having a framework to figure it out will help. I recommend using any of the one page plan templates out there which I’ve written about here: Using an Operating System for Your Business
  • If you’re like the idea of choosing three things and want to learn more, there’s a whole school of though about prioritizing work called Kanban for you to explore. I personally think the best guy to learn from is Jim Benson.
  • If you want a dashboard for your three things, you can go the Kanban route with AgileZen (what I’m using) or a similar tool which visualizes your priorities for the day/week/month/quarter called Teamly.

Solving Issues: The Magic of Simply DECIDING

The Magic of Simply Deciding

Last week I had the pleasure of moderating a quarterly planning session for a team that discovered the magic of solving issues by simply “deciding”. It was so transformational for them, it struck me that this simple “tool” is something worth singling out to share with other teams looking to gain traction.

We ran the meeting much like the quarterly planning sessions they were already comfortable with, with one notable exception. We added in the “Identify, Discuss, Solve” or IDS process from the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

While the IDS process may not sound like rocket science on the surface, it’s a truly transformational tool. Why? To start with, many issues aren’t dealt with until they get to be a big deal, leaving them with an undeserved negative connotation. An issue is just an issue, as reiterated by Mike Payton in the EOS blog last week. When an issue is identified and tackled early on, before it grows or is rehashed ad nauseum, it simply gets solved and everyone keeps moving forward.

So how does the IDS process work? As part of the quarterly meeting agenda, we listed out every issue anyone could think of, picked the top three priorities and started solving them one by one. It was fun to watch the excitement build as issues which could have been time-consuming to handle were whittled down to the core issue and decided on right then and there. Shoulders grew lighter. Projects were collectively declared “good enough”, giving permission to be done and celebrate the accomplishment. Confidence grew with each issue solved, and the team left the session with every high priority issue solved, clearing the decks to focus on company rocks and rocking out great projects for customers.

With just a couple of hours of practice, this team experienced the power of IDSing issues and left excited to continue the process during routine meetings in the future.

What’s your experience with the magic of deciding?