Imagine you are lost in the middle of a magnetic storm. You glance at your compass, but the needle rotates furiously. You take some steps in one direction, then you change your mind. Where are you going? You notice something you’ve seen before and you suddenly realize you’re just walking in circles. How would you feel?
Just think about it. Most of us are in that situation most of the year. We often make wonderful plans and resolutions at the beginning of the year and then we walk into a storm of data, events, people. We then get overwhelmed and we end up walking aimlessly in every possible direction. So I ask: What are you going to do differently this year?
I don’t know if what I’m going to share is right for you. Frankly, I feel like I should not tell anyone. During the Christmas holidays, I spent quite a bit of time rethinking about my business development strategy and what it means be successful in my business as a consultant.
After days, I still could not articulate what “success” meant to me. Nothing, at least, that could capture the accomplishments and the sense of contribution that I felt while helping my communities and clients last year.
Finally, I decided that a good indicator of success for this new year will be measured by how well I will help more individuals & organizations to vastly improve their performance in 2012. If I keep that central goal in mind, good things will happen.
I’m sure you would have your own ideas about how to do it. Normally, I would create a mindmap and start branching out ideas. From there, I would make some resolution, write down long lists of tasks and continue my lifelong search for a better tool to handle them.
Almost every single year I give up.
All my important-but-not-urgent tasks – the key to personal effectiveness – are soon forgotten, and I find myself lost in the storm of everyday things.
But something is already different this year. It’s too early to draw conclusions, but I’m reaching a level of sustained clarity that I’ve never achieved before. All thanks to my new toy: Goalscape!
I wrote my central statement and then I began exploding my goal into subgoals. At first, I wrote down traditional categories called Sales & Marketing, R&D, Administration, etc.
Does it sound boring? You know, I’m an independent consultant who always believed that, to help others and be successful, all you need is to build knowledge and experience in your chosen field.
Then I realized that my view was way too narrow. In particular:
- I never developed an explicit Sales & Marketing strategy in the past. But the truth is that I can’t help more people if they don’t know what I can do for them.
- I never developed a product development strategy in the past. But the truth is that people won’t have an easy way to use my unique talents to their advantage if I don’t package my products and services better.
- I never enjoyed dealing with the financial aspects of the business (and yes, I have an accountant to ease the pain). But the truth is that – as any cabin crew will confirm – “you need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others.”
So, I refined my headings a bit, but what you see is my emergent business development plan, neither complete nor final. It’s a baseline for improvement. Now I can visually see how each subgoal is contributing to my success (as I defined it) and the progress I’m making towards it. Are things going to evolve and change? Drastically. These are my first steps in a fast Build-Measure-Learn cycle.
Finally, let me share my new daily routine with you:
- Check email to see if there is anything that requires my immediate attention
- Launch Goalscape to see the bigger picture and strategy
- Write down on a plain text editor my daily todo task list
- Execute tasks, using time-boxing techniques to focus
Note that I apply time-boxing techniques extensively. I fancy the 48 minutes rule when at home, shorter time boxes when I’m with a client. I’ve used variations of the pomodoro technique for years. It works for me.
On my larger projects, I also began using Goalscape to track progress towards shared objectives with my clients.
Now, once again…
What are you going to do differently this year?