If something happens all the time, why is it still unexpected?
Many years ago, I worked with a wonderful client who owns an imprinting business. Let's call her Michelle (not her real name.) Michelle's primary focus is helping businesses with their marketing efforts by imprinting their name/logo on all sorts of cool stuff (hats, shirts, bags, pens, bottles, etc.)
Michelle expressed frustration that she could not get her work done because she was spending two hours each day dealing with factory errors and/or client demands. Colors were wrong, imprints weren't crisp enough, shipping was delayed, merchandise was sent to the wrong address. Deadlines were moved forward, quantities were changed, orders were being placed last minute. Every day, troubleshooting issues with both vendors and clients was messing up her schedule.
I spent some time thinking about Michelle's business and some of the daily hassles she had to manage. It occurred to me, that she was great at handling these crises. Her ability to happily meet the needs of her customers and work through complications with the factories was probably why she has developed long-term, lasting relationships and a loyal following. But something needed to change. Her mindset!
CHANGING YOUR MINDSET
My advice to Michelle was to change her mindset. Rather than viewing the troubleshooting as an unexpected annoyance each day, I suggested she embrace it as part of her work. When planning her day, she needed to set aside two hours that would be spent handling client and factory 'emergencies.'
They would creep in at unexpected times so she would need to be flexible with scheduling her day. And, if there were fewer issues on any given day, she could simply use the time to begin working on tomorrow's tasks.
This was an "aha" moment for Michelle. The source of her daily aggravation was now something she simply expected and handled. If she unexpectedly had a crisis-free day, she would adjust and make use of the newly found time.
How often do you schedule back-to-back meetings or phone calls and then wonder why you are always running late? Think back to high school. There was always a few minutes between classes to get to another classroom and stop at your locker. This short break also served to enable your brain to stop for a minute and adjust to a new topic.
Are there issues that creep up daily and rob you of your time at work? Look at it from a new perspective - are these interruptions actually part of your job? If so, be sure to allow time for handling these situations each day. Don't over-schedule yourself!
Our brains and bodies need time to adjust and re-focus between tasks and meetings.
Change your mindset - meetings do not need to be scheduled for a full 60 minutes. Consider planning 50 minute meetings to allow time for reflecting and preparing before engaging in the next topic. And if you are consistently spending time on predictably unpredictable items that snatch your attention each day, figure it into your plan!
Transitioning into the role of an executive is a challenge. You have gone from managing your own to-do list to a position where you are the "Go To" decision maker on high level issues. If you are walking around with a notebook filled with hundreds of tasks, you will feel deflated at the end of the day when you realize that you only checked off two or three items.
Change your mindset. As an executive, your role is a combination of visionary (setting the course for future success) and firefighter (making emergency decisions based on your skill, care, and judgement.) While a to-do list is still important, you need to modify your expectations about performing each task.
Changing your mindset can be as simple as identifying the two or three Most Important Tasks (MITs) that you need to accomplishand writing them down before you finish work for the day. This will keep you constantly focused on what is important (and you will sleep better!)
What other examples can you offer where changing your mindset has helped you be more productive and less stressed?
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