Ever seen fuzzy goal posts?

Have you ever watched a football, rugby or [insert sport here] match and seen the players shooting at fuzzy goal posts?

I thought not… and there’s a reason for that.

Goals that aren’t rigid and clearly defined are very had to reach… after all if you can’t see exactly what you’re shooting for where do you aim and how do you know you’ve scored?

This is as important in business as it is in sport. Setting poorly defined goals is something I’ve been guilty of many times before (and still am from time-to-time trust me) and it is often the main cause for project delays, feature creep, confusion and a whole heap of other problems.

Want something done on time or to get into a routine? Then clearly define exactly what you want to achieve when you want to achieve it and how you’ll know that the goal has been achieved.

Here are two examples from my personal time and from my business:

Going to the gym

Before: I used to set myself the goal of going to the gym three times a week. This often meant however that I kept changing my mind about which day to go, putting visits off until I had to go three days in a row at the end of the week and then ultimately not managing it because something else came up.

After: Now I go to the gym and exercise for at least 30 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4pm. Because this is much more clearly defined I’ve had far less trouble sticking to the routine and achieving my goal of regular exercise.

My business

Before: For my first product launch I set myself the goal of “going to market” by the end of the year. Predictably I kept adding things, making changes and pushing deadlines and ultimately launched several months after I intended.

After: For my second product launch I set myself the goal of launching at a pre-booked stand at Naidex, a trade show in Birmingham on the 28th April 2015 at 10am with 10 prototypes. With this much more clearly defined goal I launched bang on time and had everything I needed in place!

So…

Do you often find yourself staring at fuzzy goal posts?

Think about what you can do to bring them into focus.

 

 

How having strangers staring you in the face can help get things done

Everyone’s been there – working on a project you have to deliver where you are the one in control of the delivery date.

And so the inevitable happens.

You give yourself an arbitrary goal; “the end of the month”, “two weeks time”, “next Thursday” something like that, and sure enough one after another things start getting in the way.

  • Something that you thought would be done in an instant takes days
  • The person you were counting on for X turned out to not be all that reliable
  • You’re just not quite happy with everything until it’s all perfect.

So what happens to that deadline you set?

It slips.

It gets pushed back, moved around and its goal posts get shifted too. Tasks get added beyond the original spec of the project, and things begin to take longer and longer than planned. Before you know it your one week task turns into a two week task, then a three week task, then a month long ordeal!

Still with me on this?

I’ve suffered from this problem several times in the past, particularly when coming up to the launch of my first Kickstarter campaign. Tasks kept growing as I added to them and fretting over details caused no one tasks to ever been signed off when intended. This meant the goal posts kept moving and ultimately…

…I over-ran my original deadline by weeks.

Why was this? Well I now know it was down to the person project managing the whole thing. Me.

Because I was the one in charge of completing the project I spent as much time on each task as I deemed appropriate. This was almost always too much time. I’d also push the deadline back if it was getting uncomfortably close and change the overall aim of the project if I had a new idea or thought I could improve something further.

The result? The project I eventually completed was very different from the project planned at the start and it took waaaay longer than intended. But was the project a success? Sure in that I was happy with the standard I’d completed it at…

…But if I measured it by how I kept to the initial schedule and whether I delivered on the goals set out at the start?

Absolutely not.

So the main lesson I learnt from all of this? Set deadlines you have to stick too. How? By letting other people hold you accountable. By this I don’t mean hiring a project manager necessarily. I mean choosing the deadlines you set, and how you set these deadline, very carefully. Here are a few examples:

 

  1. Announce a project completion/ product launch/ ship date – this way you’ve now got a captive audience waiting on you to deliver!
  2. Sign up to a tradeshow/ speaking event/ exhibition – this way you’re committing to having something to show people at the event, if you don’t it’ll be a huge embarrassment afterall!
  3. Take part in challenge prizes and other types of competitions – this way you’re competing with other people to deliver what you promised by a certain deadline.
  4. Take on another commitment set to clash in the future if things overrun– this might be something as simple as booking a holiday or saying yes to another big project. It just has to be something which you won’t be able to run in parallel with your current project. This way you’re forced to finish the one at hand first.

 

I now try and make a habit of using at least one of these 4 strategies to help me stay on target with current projects. I’m already noticing a big difference in my project management when compared to before the change!

So do you use any of these 4 techniques, or perhaps others, to help you stick to self-imposed deadlines? Let me know in the comments below.

It’s time for some time off – 3 reasons taking time out is the best way to get more done.

Sometimes people work so hard they don’t have time to take time off. I’ve been one of those people a few times before and it’s not fun!

But here’s one thing I’ve realised (albeit a little too slowly for my liking)… forcing yourself to take time out every day can make you orders of magnitude more productive in the long run. How? In 3 different ways:

1. Time out gives you perspective

This is important as it allows you to see what work actually needs to be done now and what can wait.

For example: got a product launch in 4 months? Then why start on the website that far in advance if it’s only going to take a week to build/ change? If you allow 4 months it’ll take 4 months mixed in with everything else and thus you’ll be working more hours on it ultimately spend more hours on your business that were otherwise avoidable.

In the past I have spent weeks working a disproportionate amount of time on tasks that actually didn’t require as much work as I thought, or worse, weren’t even that important!

2. Time out makes you more efficient

The dreaded burnout. Everyone has one from time to time. When you work yourself to the bone on a project until your brain turns to mush and you can’t seem to bring yourself to work properly for a week or two after.

Overworking in my opinion can be a bit of a false economy. Let’s do the maths:

Say you work 60 hour weeks instead of 40 hour. Thus gaining 20 hours of “productivity” each week. How many of these hours are you working at 100% efficiency and not losing focus or getting distracted due to lack of sleep? If you’re currently working 60 hours a week at 60% efficiency – caused by tiredness, distractions etc. – then you’d be better off working 40 hours at 90% and getting the same amount of work done. And you’d then have 20 hours extra a week to spend doing something else!


60 hours per week at 60% productivity = 60/100 x 60 = 36 productive hours per week

40 hours per week at 90% productivity = 40/100 x 90 = 36 productive hours per week


Additionally when the inevitable burnout comes after working long hours for weeks on-end you’re going to lose a huge chunk of those hours of extra work you accrued anyway, so ultimately what’s the point of overworking yourself?

3. Time out is good for you

Time out is great as it allows you to keep on top of the other things in life… it’s not all meant to be work after all!

Whether you use this time to exercise and stay healthy, learn new skills or simply spend more time with friends and family, keeping on top of your life outside of work gives you more energy and motivation to apply to your work and helps you see clearly what you’re working for.

The Solution

This is all well and good but if you’ve been in the habit of working uber long hours day-in, day-out for months on end how on earth do you break this cycle for some much needed r&r?

Simple… treat your time off every day with the same discipline as your office work or meetings. Set a time at which you’ll drop everything each day and take a few hours off to do something else. Mark it in your calendar if you have to! Start small, say stopping half an hour early each day, and build up to something more significant slowly. This way you won’t feel the sudden shock of a drop in working hours which can sometimes make you feel like you’re “cheating” or “being lazy” if you’re used to overworking.

This is a routine I’ve been sticking to for a few months now and although it can be difficult at times it has done wonders for my productivity. I also have more time to exercise, cook (one of my favourite past times) and hang out with friend and family and I no longer feel overworked! Now when I’m setting meetings and telephone calls I ensure they fall within my new working day and not my old one.

So go on, give yourself some time out and let me know how you get on!

Be a “slacker”

Sometimes it can feel like every day is a manic race to the bottom of your to-do list.

But what if, to put it bluntly, your to-do list is full of rubbish?

  • That item you added 6 weeks ago… does it really still need doing?
  • Is the task at pride of place at the top of your agenda really that important?
  • Will these so called “critical” tasks truly further your business or could you avoid doing them altogether and not even notice the difference?

Sometimes it’s worth zooming out and viewing your business from 30,000 feet. That way you can see where you want to head and determine if what you’re working on is really helping you make steps in the right direction. Getting a clear picture like this is something that’s often only possible when viewing your business from the outside.

So go-on, give yourself a day off the to-do list and be a slacker. Have a think about your business as a whole and what your priorities really are. You might be surprised what a little time out can do.

After-all clearing your to-do list by erasing tasks that don’t need doing is much quicker than doing everything and is much more effective too!

Find YOUR Routine

There are heaps and heaps of productivity blogs, podcasts, books and videos out there each explaining the best ways to be productive. Yes some of these tips and tricks can help everyone out to some degree, but at the end of the day you have to find a routine that works for you.

Bit of a night owl? Don’t try and do the 9-5 because that’s what people expect.

Quite the early-bird? Don’t feel you have to work until 5pm like everyone else if you’ve been going from 6am!

Experiment, do what feels natural and comfortable to you and see what the results are. For example after months of late nights I found out that if I simply get in just an hour earlier every morning I can get all of my tasks for the day done and be heading home hours before I used to. This is because those few hours in the morning are when I’m by far the most productive.

Everyone’s different so don’t try and stick to the status quo. Do your own thing. 9 to 5 isn’t a law that you as a business owner have to stick to after-all.

8 to 3, 12 to 12, 11 to 5? Take your pick.