productivity

How To Eliminate Doubt And Achieve Anything You Want

Have you ever wanted to eliminate doubt over why you commit to doing certain things?

Sure it sounded good at the time, but after sleeping on it you realize it’s a much bigger task than you initially thought.

You might get a queasy feeling of uncertainty over whether you can do it. Then as you engage you uncover obstacles you didn’t anticipate. Yet even though you manage to navigate those obstacles, the challenge is beginning to wear you down.

With your mind now ramping up over the possibility you may fail, or not perform at your best, doubt begins to creep in.

If you are a business leader who allows doubt to overpower your ability to make crucial decisions quickly and confidently, you are part of the majority.

The good news is eliminating doubt is a skill that can be practiced. Let’s explore 3 guiding principles to eliminate doubt and achieve anything you want.

Ironman Triathlon Challenge

First, a short story that changed the way I think about making business decisions, and it has nothing to do with business.

In September 2009, I made the decision to complete an Ironman Triathlon in August 2010. I had one full year to prepare. Doing a full Ironman was a bucket list item from years ago, but paying the entry fee upfront before training even started made it real.

I had that queasy feeling of uncertainty as I clicked the submit button, and it wasn’t long before I learned I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew at the time was I craved the euphoric feeling of crossing the finish line healthy — a positive outcome.

With full confidence and belief that I can accomplish the goal, I began to research what I needed to do, and how to do it. It wasn’t long before I became overwhelmed trying to make sense of all the advice I was reading from the internet.

My mind began imagining how hard this was going to be, and I’m not talking about the event itself, but the time investment necessary to get to the finish line.

I had full clarity about why I wanted to do the event. It was checking off a bucket list item and the euphoric feeling of finishing. Yet I needed to do to get to the finish line and how I was going to do it was as murky as a swamp.

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt were creeping in. I began to overanalyze all I was reading and learning. I began losing faith that I could achieve what I had set out to do.

Ironman Triathlon Solution

My solution was to find another person who had crossed the finish line before to help guide me on my journey. They helped me discover what I needed to do, and together we created a plan.

Yet having a plan wasn’t enough because training for an Ironman requires time, lots of training time. So figuring out how to fit training into my busy lifestyle was going to be the key to igniting the belief that I could be an Ironman finisher.

I did it. I became an Ironman finisher on that August day. Despite what was a brutal day physically, I stayed mentally tough. Finishing was never in doubt, and the feeling of crossing the finish line was greater than I ever imagined. It still gives me chills as I think about it.

It was the process of preparing for an Ironman that changed the way I think about making business decisions. Doubt is a natural emotion when it comes to achieving difficult tasks, or making crucial decisions. I have found that anyone can use a similar process to overpower doubt and achieve just about anything.

3 Guiding Principles

This is for eliminating doubt and putting you in full control of achieving a positive outcome.

1. Gain Clarity

If you suffer from doubt when it comes to making crucial decisions, the first thing you must do is gain clarity around why it’s important in the first place. Clarity comes from fully understanding the purpose and intent of taking on a difficult task.

When you can answer why it is important to achieve the goal, that will drive what you choose to do and how you choose to do it. Without a high level of clarity, you may find it even more difficult to stick with it.

2. Create A Plan

One of the greatest reasons doubt creeps into our head is because our emotional mind defines why it’s important, yet our logical mind is questioning what to do and how it’s going to get done. Our minds go down this path on everything we do. The simpler the task the more automated the task becomes over time. But a complex task or project needs to be guided so as to not go off course.

A good plan becomes a roadmap to give your mind confidence. Now with the destination defined and the complexities addressed it comes down to the execution of the plan.

3. Find A Routine

Many business leaders, especially owners who work in their business every day, often find it difficult to work on important projects. They tend to be so busy dealing with the day-to-day business they can easily ignore big projects that need their attention. So with great intention and a plan to guide them it comes down to execution.

It comes down to how they prioritize it into their daily activities to ensure the plan is put into action. If the project is important to the business then it’s important enough for you to create a routine around working on this all-important project. You have to take the time to do the work, or you won’t make it to the finish line.

Eliminating doubt is a mental exercise we should go through on a daily basis. 

Yet it’s too easy to get stuck in a circular pattern of doubt. This is especially true when we lack clarity, lack a plan of action, and lack routine in our lives.

Earlier I said the good news is eliminating doubt is a skill that can be practiced. By removing yourself from the busyness of your business and life, you can make time to go deeper and become more strategic, analytical, and forward-thinking for your business.

It’s during these times where you discover trends, uncover bottlenecks, identify solutions, and orchestrate the changes necessary to keep your business healthy and growing.

As you practice this routine of making time to work ON your business, you gain more proficiency, and soon it begins to become more automatic. Positive outcomes appear much clearer than before.

Analysis paralysis disappears and the action takes over. Before you know it deciding to do things that initially appear overwhelming becomes routine, and it’s all because you gain proficiency through practice.

Now instead of having doubt that cripples you taking any action, you gain the confidence to take action to achieve anything you want.​

Read More
leadership, productivity

The Elephant No One Wants to Talk About

Running an effective meeting is like having a really good meal.

You know the sensation when you’ve had a really good meal. The same goes for when you’ve conducted a really effective meeting. You feel satisfied with the experience.

Yet, even when you think you’re getting it right, there’s still something that can CRUSH your ability to consistently have effective meetings. It’s known as the “elephant in the room.”

You’ve probably heard the phrase before, but may not know its meaning: The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first recorded use of the phrase as a simile in The New York Times on June 20, 1959:

“Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It’s so big you just can’t ignore it.”

Basically, the elephant is an obvious problem or difficult situation people don’t want to talk about because the discussion is considered to be difficult or uncomfortable.

What’s an elephant look like?

Elephants can take on these 3 different forms in the context of having effective meetings:

1. You: The elephant in the room others might not want to discuss is how poorly run your meetings can be. If you feel like meetings can be a waste of time, you are emitting those vibes and your participants are feeling them. When you conduct this kind of meeting – or have meetings for the sake of having meetings – they become tedious, dry, and uninspiring. Since they aren’t contributing to business success, you might as well not have them at all. The elephant here could be your meetings suck, and no one’s telling you.

2. Your Team: Another elephant in the room might be a participant who doesn’t know they are in the ‘hot seat’ for one reason or another. It could be an individual underperforming in their job and everyone knows about it except the individual. Similarly, it could be a participant having personal issues others know about but aren’t supposed to. The elephant here is others talking in hushed tones and under their breath or speaking in code during meetings so as to not break the secret. 

3. Leadership: Or it could very well be the owner of the business, a highly respected founder holding a tight grip to the business he spent a lifetime building. In these meetings, ideas are openly shared, but the final say-so typically rests with the opinion of the senior leader. Participants may feel involved but certainly not empowered, and soon they choose to disengage. The elephant in the room is the senior leader not allowing or trusting the management team to make important decisions affecting them or their teams.

How to conduct effective meetings, elephant free:

First, develop your mindset around having effective meetings instead of having meetings for the sake of meeting. Determine the type of meetings that best serve your business needs, set an agenda for each type of meeting, and stay within a prescribed timeframe.
Acknowledge with the participants when a meeting is productive to encourage more of the same. And remember, it’s kind of like having a really good meal; you want more just like that!
Depending on the type of ‘elephant’, you as the leader must encourage open, honest communication and feedback. Business leaders must use questions to mine for constructive conflict instead of avoiding tension created by uncomfortable conversations.
When you prepare for your meetings you have the ability to ask open-ended questions. This keeps people engaged, leads to more passionate discussion, and ultimately to better decisions.
Finally, you must avoid cooking up a meeting stew. This is what Patrick Lencioni describes in his book Death By Meeting as throwing every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting. In the effort to not waste time, these meetings become a complete waste of time.
By packing every conceivable topic into a single meeting participants are either overwhelmed or shut down. In the end, the main topic, the reason for calling the meeting, is forgotten, over-shadowed, or watered-down.
Cooking-up meeting stew may have checked off a lot of boxes, but that doesn’t mean it was effective.

This is probably the best advice one can receive:

It comes from the author of The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch, who after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer gave an upbeat lecture from his podium at Carnegie Mellon University. The lecture became a popular YouTube video and lead to the book.“When there’s an elephant in the room, introduce him”. ~ Randy Pausch

Don’t let elephants crush your meetings and make them ineffective.  Call them out.  Make sure you keep evolving your meetings to keep them from going stale.

When you get this right you will be having meetings where each has its own purpose, where engagement is strong, and participants feel empowered to speak freely and make decisions affecting their teams. Having effective meetings is a business essential every successful business leader must master.

Read More
business scorecard
performance management, productivity

How To Accelerate Business Results Using A Scorecard

Let’s cut straight to the chase right now because, after all, what business isn’t seeking to accelerate results?

And this strategy might just be THE best thing you can do.

So, how does a business scorecard accelerate results? One word…

FEEDBACK

That’s right. Feedback is the special sauce your business needs to accelerate results. But the type of feedback I’m talking about might not be what you think.

Having a scorecard is one way to know if your business had a good day or not, and it provides essential feedback on the most critical business activities.

The Human Psyche

Before I get into the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of creating a scorecard for your business, let’s first take a journey into the human psyche.

We, humans, love our freedom of choice. Yet recent surveys show that ⅔ of Americans are unhappy with their jobs. Our lives are full of things we have to do, and then there are things we want to do. We typically enjoy things we want to do and aren’t as excited about things we have to do.

At work, employees are told exactly what to do and how to do it, and for many, work just isn’t very fun. Since the choices employees have in their work environments are limited, work turns into something they have to do, and enjoyment disappears.

And so does productivity!

Managing underperforming employees is one way to go about increasing productivity, and it works when done well. But when we’re talking about under-performing businesses or teams, there are underlying challenges or opportunities that need to be uncovered and addressed.

So to summarize… we have employees who have to work, in jobs where their choices are limited, in businesses that tell them what and how to do their jobs, which results in a workplace where ⅔ are unhappy.

It’s no wonder there are businesses where the staff is indifferent to the needs of the customer, where productivity suffers, and results are inconsistent.

If this strikes a chord with you, here’s how we’re going to change things.

Activities Outside The Workplace

As humans, employees engage in activities outside the workplace. These are things they want to do and what they find enjoyable. Many of these activities are different types of sports and recreation. It’s usually something they choose to do, and it’s something they can learn to excel at.

And guess what?

Every sport and recreational activity has a set of rules and a system for keeping score.

Rules allow everyone to participate on a level playing field. And keeping score records of how they are doing in their activity of choice WHILE they are participating.

Outside of work, humans have an innate characteristic to measure progress in the recreational activities of their choice.

To create a more engaging workplace for your staff and your customers it’s crucial to tap into this human characteristic.

The Measurement Problem

The problem with many work environments is performance and results are measured after the fact.

Too often business owners don’t know how their business performed until after the end of the month.

Too many employees have no idea how they’re doing in their jobs or understand the contribution they’re making to the business.

And unlike the recreational activities, they do outside of work, their work activity doesn’t provide the same kind of feedback. They don’t know the score.

This makes it virtually impossible for them to understand how they’re doing, and make adjustments during the month that could lead to better results, quicker.

Therein lies the challenge or opportunity: providing team members with a “score” so they can embrace their work activity in the same way they embrace their recreational activities.

Why A Scorecard?

Many businesses have some type of software collecting and storing the kind of data that measures business activities. They often have a reporting function aggregating data and a list of available reports from which to choose.

From my experience, the data is usually there, but the formats of the available reports leave much to be desired. There’s either too much or too little data, the reports are difficult to modify, and when you export the data it’s difficult to build a report on your own. That is unless you’re a whiz at spreadsheeting data.

Don’t get me wrong. They have some good data points when you have time to invest in analyzing the business, but they aren’t a great scorecard. I often help clients use this same data to build their own scorecards.

What is a Scorecard?

Let me first say this, in my book having a scorecard, is essential for EVERY busy business owner or team leader.

Here’s why…

Your business scorecard is your ‘go-to’ place to see the most important, and up-to-date measurements for your business.

When done correctly it will provide you an at-a-glance tool to:

  • Quickly view business results
  • Quickly view daily/weekly key performance indicators
  • Measure how your business is performing to goal
  • Measure performance for bonus programs
  • Use as a tool in huddles and meetings
  • Help employees to understand ‘the current score’ of the business
  • Make adjustments quicker when results are lagging

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY…

… to make your business a place where employees want to do better because they understand how their efforts affect the overall business results.

And if you do it right, it can actually make your business environment a FUN place to work.

Practice Owners Love This

I’ve had massive success implementing Scorecards into all types of businesses, but it’s in my work with Optometry and Dental practices where they have really embraced it and made it work.

WHY? One reason is that doctors as practice owners have limited time to analyze business performance. Another reason is they quickly come to realize the simple act of measuring, and talking about it, leads to improved results. And finally, once they learn to set daily goals for themselves and the team everyone is more focused on the most important things.

Hmm… sounds like that could work for just about any kind of business.

Building Your Own Scorecard

By now you understand why having a Scorecard that provides constant FEEDBACK is essential for any business. It also fits in well with how humans measure performance in their recreational activities outside of work.

Again, people simply want to know that the efforts they provide the business contribute to the success of the business in a measurable way. And when feedback is provided “during the game” it’s more likely they can make adjustments to improve performance and achieve the goal.

Click the download button above to receive a workbook with a full example of a Scorecard and a 5-step action plan to help you build your own Scorecard.

Reach out to me if you’d like to dig deeper on this topic and find out how you can gain better control of your business and unlock its full potential. Comment below, use this contact form or click below if you’d like to schedule a free 15-minute strategy call to explore what might work for you. And, if you found this article useful, please share it so others can learn how to find focus in their lives and businesses.

Read More
how to practice focus
productivity

How to Ignore Distraction And Focus Like A Champ

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could call up our focus like we ring our smartphone when it’s gone missing?

Ignore Distractions

Distractions are nothing new. In fact, many take pride in their ability to multi-task.

But with the proliferation of electronic devices running our lives, our ability to focus has taken a nosedive.

Here’s the thing though…

Your focus is always there. It comes down to practicing how to find your focus when you need it most.

Bright Shiny Objects

With the business environment moving at lightspeed the onslaught of new business strategies available to try is mind-boggling. So is it any wonder our ability to focus is being challenged?

Every day I’m uncovering more and more things that grab my attention, and like many, my curiosity gets the best of me.

It’s hard to ignore.

I want to do everything I can to raise my game. I want to stay on the cutting edge of what’s working. I want to accelerate my business. I want the big payday.

But in chasing so many things my focus had gone missing. So enough of chasing the bright shiny objects. Enough of feeling the fear of missing out on something.

I took control, and now my focus is now stronger than ever. Here are 4 things I learned and now practice to help me regain my focus when feeling distracted.

Recognizing Distractions

Distractions are an inevitable part of modern life. Some are unavoidable and unmanageable; think of the landscape crew cutting and edging right outside your office space. Not much you can do other than your best to block it out of your mind.

Other distractions are fully manageable; think of your decision to check your smartphone every time it makes a sound, and even times when it’s not sounding off at all. Why are you sabotaging your own productivity?

Distractions ruin our flow when we’re trying to accomplish important tasks, and the result is things taking longer to complete.

Thinking: The Enemy Of Focus

We’ve all caught our minds wandering when we’re trying to focus on an important task. Sometimes it’s an innocent departure onto something trivial.

Other times though, it might be something that happened previously you can’t stop thinking about. A difficult conversation with a coworker or customer, or a family-related issue that keeps replaying in your head.

Thinking is obviously a necessary part of being human, but it sabotages our ability to focus. The result is forcing ourselves to try to focus. Yet by adding force we also add pressure.

Adding Pressure

If we are distracted and falling behind on projects because of it, and our thinking is getting in the way of focusing on what’s most important, pressure begins to build. The pressure just adds to the head trash your distracted, over-thinking brain congers up.

Using public speaking as an example, most if not all of us admit to being anxious when it comes to public speaking. If we allow the head trash to take control we might experience our worst nightmare while on stage.

Focus is the antidote to the head trash created by a distracted, over-thinking, and pressure-filled mind. Why? Because focus doesn’t know pressure, only the thinking mind does. So when we experience true focus, the pressure disappears.

Action Without Limitations

How would you like to go into any situation knowing your focus is always there?

Well, it is there. It always has been.

Thoughts are like clouds; they flow through freely, and can sometimes block our view, our focus. Distractions, over-thinking, and pressure are the storm clouds that can disrupt our ability to take solid, focused action.

Another concept to consider is a concept called flow. You know the feeling when something you’re working on is moving along. You’ve achieved a flow; maybe you get in ‘the zone’. You’re focus is 100% on the task at hand.

Creating Routines

Creating routines are a wonderful way to achieve flow. High-performing athletes often have a routine they perform before, and even sometimes during competition. But, before a routine works for them in competition, they will have devoted hours to preparation by ignoring distractions, not allowing themselves to think ahead to the competition, or putting undue pressure on themselves.

Professional golfer Jason Day closes his eyes before every shot as he re-focuses and visualizes just that shot. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps had a specific routine he performed before every event. It started when he arrived at the swim venue two hours prior to an event and followed the same routine each time. Clearly, it seemed to work for him!

Practice Required

It’s not enough to know about the concept of focus. You need to experience focus first hand to fully appreciate the feeling focus can give you. Only then will focus allow you to take action without thinking.

  • Do you have to focus to brush your teeth? Probably not. It’s become routine through experience. The same goes with tying your shoes. You learned shoe tying as a kid and have practiced it thousands of times. No focus is required.
  • Do you need to focus to drive your car? You betcha! But it too can become a comfortable routine. We become over-confident, and now more than ever, have allowed potential distractions (smartphones again!) to interfere with the task at hand.
  • No matter how good of a driver you think you are, losing focus while driving 60 MPH can kill you or someone else. There are some things just not worth the risk.

Tips to Help You Practice Focus

Acknowledge distractions, then re-focus and move on.

  • It does no good to try to think about why you’re distracted.
  • When we’re thinking we lose focus, and without the ability to re-focus there’s no way to carry on whatever it is you’re working on.

Eliminate multitasking when focusing on important tasks or projects.

  • Checking your phone or email every 10 minutes while you’re trying to focus on an important task breaks flow. It requires valuable time and energy to re-focus and regain flow.
  • Multi-tasking is also proven to reduce your ability to retain knowledge and information.

Get your sleep. This may seem obvious, but way too many entrepreneurs forfeit sleep as a way of thinking they’re achieving more.

  • Studies have shown the opposite to be true. Rather, you do not get more accomplished.
  • When you are tired you are less competent and more apt to fall into some of the other traps discussed above.

Practice meditation. Listen, I never would have expected myself to be someone who meditates. After all, isn’t that some ancient eastern philosophy for Buddhist monks? Not at all!

  • I have found meditation to be a valuable practice in helping me listen to my mind and body. I use the Headspace app almost daily.
  • Andy Puddicombe, the voice of Headspace, makes the act of meditating relevant to my life. He’s easy to listen to and easy to follow along.

Focus isn’t a thing that gets lost and needs to be found. It’s with you all the time if you are willing to practice accessing focus when it’s most needed.

Unlock Your Full Potential

Reach out to me if you’d like to dig deeper on this topic and find out how you can gain better control of your business and unlock its full potential. Comment below, use this contact form or click here if you’d like to schedule a free 15-minute triage call to explore what might work for you. And, if you found this article useful, please share it so others can learn how to find focus in their lives and businesses.

Read More
runner on a paved road
productivity

Success Comes To Those Who Embrace The Grind

What comes to mind when I say the word grind?

The Word Grind

For me, the first thing that comes to mind is grinding something up; like a pepper grinder putting some fresh ground pepper on a juicy sirloin. I certainly like the thought of that!

Maybe you thought of grind as a sound. If you’ve ever driven a car with a manual transmission, and you miss a shift, you’ll hear a grinding sound. Not pleasant, and not good for the car either.

Another thought that comes to mind is the feeling that “work was such a grind today”. It connotes things didn’t go well, or it was hard, or it was long. Looking at it in this context definitely gives the word grind a negative feeling.

The Success Grind

Putting in quality time to do the hard work necessary to achieve a goal or a new level of success requires a consistent routine. I call it the grind. To help you learn to embrace the grind download this free worksheet.

It’s time to change the way you think about the grind. And, by the end of this, I guarantee you’ll be ready to embrace the grind.

Let me start with a short story about how I learned to embrace the grind.

I competed in my very first triathlon in 1986, and I was instantly hooked. Triathlon as a sport was still in it’s infancy then, and while there were plenty of short local events, there was one that was the awe of every aspiring amateur triathlete: The Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon. The distance of an Ironman is the ultimate test of endurance, but back then the distances seemed ridiculous.

[Just in case you’re not familiar with the distance, it’s a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a full marathon of 26.2 miles. That’s a combined 140.6 miles to be completed within an 18-hour time frame.]

Fast forward to 2009. I resumed triathlon training after a long layoff and set my sight on the goal of completing an Ironman. In September 2009 I registered for the Ironman in Louisville, KY, set for August 2010. I had a year to prepare. But how?

Serious training began in earnest about 8 months prior to the date of the event. That means not a day went by where I wasn’t doing something preparing me for that day. Had I tried to script my training all on my own I knew achieving my goal would be at risk. But, I hired a local coach who had a plan — a training plan to define exactly what I needed to do each and every day to put me in the best condition physically and mentally to achieve my goal.

The Grind Perspective

This is when I first gained the grind perspective.

The great thing about having a plan is I didn’t have to think about what I was going to do on any particular day, I simply followed the plan. One day at a time. Not thinking too far ahead. Not beating myself up for days where training didn’t go as expected. Just did the best I could on THAT day.

Day-by-day performance ebbs and flows, so getting all twisted up inside because you had a difficult day doesn’t jeopardize a goal unless you let it.

The key to grinding is to remain present on the tasks at hand for the day. Looking too far ahead, or beating yourself up over the past does nothing except create anxiety and doubt.

By grinding day-in and day-out, by winning more days than you lose, by staying in the present and not letting head trash get the best of you, any goal you set for yourself can be achieved.

Ironman Triathlon: Embracing The Grind

I completed the 2010 Louisville Ironman Triathlon on a hot, humid day in late August. It was as hard as my mind could imagine, but nothing my daily grinding had not prepared me for. The feeling of crossing the finish line still gives me chills, and from that experience, I have learned to embrace the grind.

[Watch a video of my Ironman experience]

Learning to embrace the grind is not easy, but it could be the difference in achieving your loftiest goals. Think of it this way — success is cumulative and progressive, but so is failure. Success is the result of what you do every day.

It boils down to having a plan for your day and winning more days than you lose. So how can you learn to embrace the grind?

Try These Two Things:

  1. Gain control of your time. I know, easier said than done, but it’s critical because the demands on our time are what make work feel like a grind. Instead, you want to control the grind by knowing the things you do today are leading towards the goal. I use a simple one-page worksheet every day to plan my day and keep myself honest with how I use my time.
  2. Keep score. Listen, you’re not going to win every day. There are just too many variables as a business owner that tug at your time. One way to evaluate how you’re doing is to give yourself a “star” for the day. Yep, going all the way back to elementary school for this little gem. Look your day over. Would you give yourself a “star”? Evaluate and simply hold yourself accountable, that’s it!

Click here to subscribe

Vince Lombardi Redefined Practice

Coach Vince Lombardi once famously said “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Coach Lombardi understood that if you want to win in the future you have to embrace the grind today and every day.

At the beginning of this article, I guaranteed you’d be ready to embrace the grind. So, are you ready to get after it and grind each and every day toward your goal?

Dig Deeper To Gain Better Control & Unlock Full Potential

Reach out to me if you’d like to dig deeper on this topic and find out how you can gain better control of your business and unlock its full potential. Comment below, or use this contact form to send me a message or to schedule a free 15-minute triage call to explore what might work for you. And, if you found this article useful please share it so others can learn how to grind in their lives and businesses.

Read More
productivity

Is Your Overthinking Creating Fake Problems?

Putting in quality time to do the hard work necessary to achieve a goal or a new level of success requires a consistent routine. I call it the grind. ​Watch my video describing how I hold myself accountable…

Read More