It’s that time of year when some of us reflect on the year that has just passed and perhaps anticipate the year ahead. Well if you’re one of these people (I am has it happens) then perhaps this list will help you to be more successful and less stressful in 2014.
1. Be clear what your mission is
I know what you’re thinking “I can’t believe he started with that lame-ass old chestnut”. Well I have because it’s the single biggest factor in controlling stress and most of the other messages listed below depend upon this being right.
All you need to do is write down in 100 words or less what it is you want to achieve in 2014. I’ve also included things in my personal life but you can restrict it to just work if you like (personally I wouldn’t but it’s your call).
When you’ve done it ask this one simple question: do I believe I can do this? If the answer is “no” back to the drawing board.
BTW I have just done this and it was a great experience.
2. Say “no” more
I’ll keep this simple: when somebody asks you to do something or go somewhere this is the sequence of questions to ask yourself.
- Will this help me to complete my mission? If so then accept.
- Do I have a choice? If not then get on with it and look as happy as you can.
- Do I have the time? If not then say no.
- Will I be able to call in this “off message good deed” in the future? If not then say no.
- For everything else say no.
3. Delegate or Outsource whatever you can
Obviously available people and available funds are crucial factors here but whenever possible pass things to others to do. One word of warning here: whether you are delegating or outsourcing you must do it properly or it will just make things worse. Delegate don’t abdicate.
4. Don’t schedule all your time
I’m the absolute worst for this and yet it’s the thing I need most: free time. Foolishly I fill my working week with one thing after another and, worse still, I also fill my personal time with weekends away and evenings out. Mrs Ames hates me doing this!
For me this is a disaster. I need free time to think, recharge my batteries and be spontaneous and if I don’t get it I feel increasingly depressed. In, 2014 I am going to achieve this by a combination of rigorously applying the first three rules.
BTW on the subject of weekends …… what a great time to reflect, relax and regenerate as well as build some memories for your creaky old age. We like to have something in the diary every couple of months which we diarise in January. We might not know what we’re going to do but we know when we’re going to do them.
I think you can get as much from a long-weekend as you can from a week away sometimes but it’s usually cheaper and doesn’t burn as much holiday. Whilst most people do this the difference is sitting down in January with your brand spanking new calendar and blocking them out.
Oh, one last thing that we used to do with the kids was keep an adventure file. Anybody (mainly us when they were young) can put something in that relates to an adventure: magazines, TV programmes and later on, the Internet were a rich source of material. The kids LOVED it and we had some really great adventures together.
5. Create an inner circle of a dozen high value people
Most of us know lots of people and the temptation (or offer) to meet up for coffee, drinks or even meals is ever-present. The result is seeing too many people who aren’t contributing very much to your mission.
My solution is to have an inner circle of people who I have decided can help me achieve my mission but who I can also add some value back in return. This last statement is important unless you want to be seen as one of life’s “takers”. Perish the thought!
So now you either see clients/prospects (see as many of these as you like) or your inner circle; everything else is likely to be an indulgence thus burning time and increasing your stress levels.
I think it’s a good idea to speak to or see 2 of your inner circle every month.
6. A place for everything and everything in its place
Organisation is the DNA of personal effectiveness. To me this means being able to a) have a clear desk and office and b) know exactly where something is when I want it.
This means different things to different people I know but to me it means: –
- Contact and personal details of all of my stakeholders: my CRM system
- Paperwork of any sort: a splendid filing system (used it for years)
- Paperwork associated with current projects: an A to Z concertina file
- Documents especially when I want to send them out to people: SharePoint and Box.net
- Useful stuff I’ve found on the web: diigo.com and Evernote
7. Use of a task management system
Had Microsoft thought that either your Inbox or your Calendar were effective ways of managing your workload they wouldn’t have bothered to spend all that time and money on developing Outlook Tasks. I agree with them on this one.
So get used to using Outlook Tasks to remind you to do your due tasks and store all the relevant information to that particular task. You can use Categories to group tasks together (say if they are all related to a project) and the Assign button to delegate them out whilst still keeping control of what’s going on.
I started using a system in the 90s when I had a Filofax which has been adapted for use with modern Groupwise products like Outlook. I rarely forget things and can have loads of projects on the go at once just because I use Tasks over bits of paper or my Inbox.
8. Book time in the diary for larger tasks
Half the problem of over work (and therefore stress and failure) is that we don’t really have a handle on our spare capacity. “hey, Mike can you do this for Friday please?” … “Oh sure, just whack it over to me and I’ll take care of it”. What I should have said is “Oh, let me just check what I’ve got on and I’ll get back to you”.
I know that there’s that whole “the answers yes now what’s the question” macho bull5h1t vibe going on but face; it you only have so many hours in the day and only a percentage of those where you can do really exceptional work so why not get into the habit of reserving slots in your diary for bigger projects you have committed to deliver.
This makes it easy to check how much spare capacity you have before committing to more things that you don’t have time to deliver properly. Even better than that; if something really urgent comes in you can use your diary to reschedule less urgent tasks giving you the time to get right on the new one.
Great idea. It only works about 80% of the time. This is better than not knowing what’s going on.
9. Plan, plan, plan
They say a cliché is just on over-used truth in which case this is a massive cliché but if you fail to plan you really do plan to fail.
- Your mission provides you with your overall goals for the year.
- A quarterly plan denotes the next chunk of deliverables if your going to deliver your mission.
- The plan for the coming week enables you to prioritise and be ahead of the game.
If being in control is the Domestos of stress then plans are the Tesco’s you can buy them in. Rubbish metaphor but I think you get the idea.
10. Invest in Yourself
We are all too busy (apparently) to do anything else except work so any ideas of personal development are laughable. I don’t buy this for one minute but even if I did how are you going to get better at what you do if you don’t invest?
Now, I accept that a week’s course is probably not likely to happen but consider this: spend just 5 minutes a day reading/watching/listening to something that is new and improving adds up to nearly 3 days of improvement a year!
So try these sources of inspiration: –
- Watch Videos: try TED.com – this is my favourite
- Read Blogs: too many to mention but I do like Seth Godin’s blog
- Seminars: longer than 5 minutes I admit but stack a few days worth up and go learn something new.
- Books: I just don’t have the time to read as much as I used to. I can open a book halfway thru and read until I’ve learnt something useful though. Check out my favourite business books here.
- eNewsletters: pick and choose but a good newsletter can be an easy way to have new stuff delivered to your inbox. Sign up for mine here.
- People: probably the best source of new material and easily the most fun. Just starting a conversation is a start.
Never, never, never stop investing in your self. The cost of doing so is way too high.
So there you have it.
Ten ways that you can reduce your stress levels and make you more successful. If you think I’ve missed any please feel free to add your ideas as comments – I’d love to hear from you.
Have a prosperous, peaceful and very happy 2014 peeps.