I once read of an efficiency study done for an airplane repair company. They couldn’t understand what took so long to complete the repair on airplanes. When they dug into where the bottle neck was, they discovered that the hold-up was with the engineers. The problem wasn’t because there were not enough engineers; the problem was that the engineers were constantly being interrupted for issues that needed immediate attention. As they dug into why this was a problem, they discovered that on average an engineer would lose 15 minutes of productivity every time he switched tasks.
To better draw out the scenario, an engineer would be engrossed in his project at hand. The lead on a job would enter the office with a question or an obstacle from the floor. The engineer would have to mentally change gears from the task he was on, re-orient himself to the problem at hand, resolve the problem, dis-engage from the problem he just fixed, again re-orient himself to what he was working on before, and again begin work. That whole process of disengage, orient, engage, disengage, re-orient, and re-engage actually lost 30 minutes of productivity because he changed tasks twice. 15 minutes per task change.
To eliminate the interruptions, they defined what items were appropriate for interruption. It was a very small list. Everything else was placed into one bin and the engineer cleared out the items in batches two or three times a day instead of at random times.
Multitasking is a myth. Numerous studies have shown that the human mind cannot focus on more than one thing at a time well. In reality, what we call “multitasking” is to constantly move our attention from one activity to the other. This is easier when some activities only require muscle memory (like driving and talking with a passenger), but decisions that need to be made often get overlooked. Ever been heavily engaged in a conversation and miss your turn or run a red light? It’s a great example of our inability to multitask. You can keep the car on the road (muscle memory) and carry on the conversation. But depending on the intensity of the conversation, we might end up arriving late or getting a ticket (or worse).
A surgeon in the operating room must focus on the task at hand. He does not have time to run throughout the operating room monitoring blood pressure, pulse, and all the other details required to keep the patient alive. He gets and requests occasional updates from the systems and people in place to make sure the patient continue leading the procedure.
Throughout your day, find the times to check into the system (email, phone, etc). Put your own personal system together to allow you to focus on the task at hand. Turn off your email notice. Close the Facebook in the background. Let the voicemail get the phone.
If you’re looking at taking on multiple projects, become a plate spinner. Determine your project and focus on it until it is ready to be set on auto-pilot, delegated , or performed on muscle memory. Once the project is set to auto-pilot, it only takes a glance to verify that the system is still operating. Now take on the next one.
David Bryant Mitchell is a business coach and consultant that works with business owners and managers to create momentum in their business with strategies and tactics that they can implement today. These strategies are based on the five foundations of business: Marketing, Leadership, Operations, Finance and Systems.
I am just as guilty of letting stress get to me as anyone else. Which is why I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Leslie has some great insights into being a more effective leader by being a more whole person.
We all have ways that our stress affects us. I know that stress sabotages me with:
- Staying up late to wind-down. I then am too tired to exercise the next day and overeat in search of more energy
- Losing my temper with my family – particularly with my kids
- Distracting me from giving my full attention to the most important things – causing my wife to shutdown after the third empty “uh-huh” because I am not really listening
- Looking for an escape in entertainment instead of taking care of my home.
Many times we create our own storm of stress. I teach my clients when they complain of this to develop personal systems to minimize their self-imposed stress.
In case it helps you, here are my biggest sources of stress and how I minimize them.
Problem: Setting unrealistic deadlines for myself.
Solution: I try to add about a fourth more time than what I really think.
Problem: Allowing the easy jobs to take all my time without touching the most important.
Solution: Plan the day before I start and schedule a time for the most important tasks
Problem: Failure to delegate.
Solution: This is part of “planning my day”. The things that need to get done, but don’t need me directly are determined while I am planning.
Problem: Not living in the moment
Solution: I have to eventually unplug and engage when it is time for my family, volunteering, or personal time. A deep breath and an intentional re-focus brings me back.
So what stresses you out and how do you handle it? Please share with us below!
My son started describing his day, when his sister started arguing with him about whether he had played tag or wall-ball during recess. There did not seem to be any point to the argument besides who was right and who was wrong. It was merely about who would win the “uh-huh/nyu-huh” war.
After a few seconds of the back-and-forth I asked, “Is anyone going to be injured by whether Josh played one or the other today?” No. “Is there something that will be damaged?” No. “Is anyone going to hell because of it?” Definitely no.
We had a quick conversation about what is important and what we spend our energy on. That got me thinking about what we all seem to spin our wheels on.
We often find a way to keep our selves busy; somehow believing that because we are busy, we are productive. Often we busy ourselves with the wrong things – like my kids arguing about something that has no relevance besides feeling they bested the other in their “who is right” contest.
Are you the right kind of busy? Can you see sales growing, service improving, teams developing, and profits improving?
Time to refocus priorities.
I’ve been reviewing the many clients I have had over the years and looking at what the difference has been between the ones who grew their business and those that did not.
As I developed my list, here is what I have determined made them successful:
Follow-Through – This was the single most important factor in who succeeded and who did not. The ones that I saw increase their sales, hire better employees, and create exstatic customers were the ones who put into action the things they committed to doing.
Burning Desire – not a passing craving, or a “that-would-be-nice” motivation. They were almost obsessed with changing their business to become something incredible.
Willing to Be Challenged – they did not mind having someone challenge their way of thinking. They were humble and wanted to learn. However, when they would defend an aspect of their business, they had a well thought-out reason and could logically defend why it was that way. Emotions were important in the decision, but there was logical basis to it.
Time to Think, Plan and Dream – Successful clients I have worked with took the time to think through what was happening every day. They (usually) did not allow everyone else to dictate their schedule or the just rely on their to-do list to determine what would happen next. Dreaming was an important aspect as well since it allowed them to re-focus on what they wanted to accomplish (see “A Higher Ideal” below.)
Support – As a coach, I help provide support and provide accountability. Those who are amazingly successful, however had another person or group that was cheering them on.
A higher Ideal – The success of the business was merely a symptom of something bigger. Successful people started their business because it was their passion. They did have to find a way to monitize and leverage it for it to be able to grow. Sales became easy then and their focus became more about doing what they love – the money followed.
Faith – Faith in something greater than yourself is critical. I don’t mean an ideal or a passion. I mean someone or governing power that controls the universe. Faith in God is an easy one to identify. Some of my succesful clients have been agnostic or aethiest, but they believed in something – that people are basically good, natural energy, etc.
Creativity – The ability to see potential in the mundane is key to any success. People that I would deem successful were able to look beyond what is right in front of them and finding value where others could not.
Discernment – Beyond seeing the potential in the mundane, the people I know who have moved to great heights are those who can push away the distractions and the waste of time. They did not spend much time on failing efforts. They either changed it or abandonded it.
Courage – I don’t just mean the courage it takes to branch out on your own. I mean the quite courage it takes to do the most important thing when no one is looking or holding you accountable to it.
So the challenge for today is this: What are you missing within yourself that is keeping you from growing?
“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life.”
Balance in life is like riding a unicycle. If you do find a perfect balance, it only last a second. Whether it is a breeze, a slight tremble in the rider or the imperceptible shift of the earth, you become “off balance” and must again make adjustments.
If you want to stay still – you must constantly be making adjustments to maintain your position. However, if you want to move forward, you must take yourself out of balance and gently lean into it.
Progress and balance are nearly impossible to maintain simultaneously.
We inherently know that starting something new or significantly changing course in any endeavor in life requires more energy, concentration and devotion than keeping the “status quo”
So which are you after – do you want to stay where you are or do you want to move forward? The trick, of course is not keeping perfect balance.
The trick is knowing when to throw yourself off-balance, in what direction and by how much. If you lean into it too much you end up on your face. If you don’t lean into it enough, you stay where you are or even have to move backwards to recover.
A few things that to help keep you off balance enough without falling on your face:
- Your “Don’t Do” list is probably more important than you “To Do” list
- Know how much your family is willing to sacrifice for your dream.
- Make sure you reward your family, friends, associates, partners, etc for their sacrifice. This can be as simple as sharing profits, small gifts, or a 4-day weekend away.
- Look for leverage.
“The more accountable I can make you, the easier it is for you to show you’re a great performer. “
Mark V. Hurd (1957- )
Co-President, Oracle Corporation
Former CEO, Hewlett-Packard
It’s lonely being an entrepreneur, business owner, or leader. We are often left to “figure it out” our selves or to have great ideas, only to fall behind or poorly implement because of our own shortcomings. Sometimes, it’s not lack of desire, skill or time. Just being human gets in the way.
A big piece of survival in business is accountability. There are a few stalwart individuals who can make it on their own – most of us are not them. We need someone to hold us to the commitments we make to ourselves. As I coach, this is a large majority of what I do.
There other accountability measures we can take. One that was clearly defined almost a century ago was the “Master Mind Group”. Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich, listed it among the basic principles of success that he observed when interviewing the most successful people of his time.
Do you really want your business to succeed?
Would you like more than just making ends meet?
Get a coach or a mastermind group.
If you would like more information on a master mind group, please check out “Why A Master Mind?”.