Posts Tagged ‘Productivity’

One More Thing…

timemanagement_runnerI must have been bitten by the “One More Thing” vampire at an early age; it seems like I have always tried to get just one more thing done or, perhaps, that’s only been since I’ve had kids, but that’s another story for another day.

Those bitten by the One More Thing Vampire are driven to accomplish just one more thing before they leave for an appointment, before they begin the more important project. The satisfaction of crossing off one more to-do item is just so compelling! I’m sure there is a burst of some feel-good hormone that goes along with those to-dos being crossed off. Regardless, continually fitting in “one more thing” can cause us to feel stressed and can actually be a detriment to our business. Let me share a client story.

This client has a long to-do list and always feels behind. What’s most worrisome is the idea that there might be some critical task on the list that he’s forgotten about, which drives him to keep trying to accomplish one more thing. While we are working on better task management and systems to decrease the worry, we also want to eliminate the One More Thing syndrome, which has caused him to be late and even miss many appointments. I asked him to experiment around an upcoming meeting; he agreed.

It all started with accepting that he would not finish all of his to-dos (do we ever, really?) and would leave early. Biggest step, right there.

He arrived a few minutes early and he spent 1-2 minutes reviewing names of the people also attending the meeting and what he knew about each of them. Connecting their name with his visual memory of their appearance helped a lot.

He met some of the other attendees on the way in, and was able to confidently greet them by name. He said that set the tone of the meeting.

During the meeting, he said that he felt more confident and comfortable, which led him to participate and contribute more to the meeting.

As the meeting ended, he was invited to lunch by 3 of the 4 key attendees.

Not bad, for an investment of a few minutes. And, a return much higher than finishing one more to-do on his list.

If you recognize yourself as having been bitten by the One More Think Vampire, try this exercise:

The next time you’re tempted to tackle just One More Thing, ask yourself this question:

How will I most move my business forward today: by tackling this to-do, or by arriving a few minutes early/working on this other strategic (but harder, for you) project/calling it a day?

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

Stop Doing it For Them: A Simple Way to Get Your Staff to Work Independently



“How do I get my staff to finish the loose ends on a job so I don’t have to?”

“How do I get my team to remember all the steps they need to take on a procedure?”

“How do I get my staff to put all the tools and boxes away at the end of a day?”

These are all questions I’ve heard from small business owners over the past few weeks.

The answer is simple:

Stop doing it for them.

I said simple, not easy.

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re a business with protocols and checklists, or at least someone who wants that level of consistent quality in their business. When it doesn’t happen, it’s frustrating and just grates on your nerves. I hear “why don’t they care enough to do the job well?” We sometimes take it personally, or think that our employees don’t care. As with so many things, though, it comes back to us: we pick up the pieces at the end of the day, we tie up the loose ends, so why would our employees think that it’s their responsibility? Yep, you created the practice and you need to dismantle it if you want your staff to work independently without constant reminders and reinforcement.

To change a protocol, wanted or unwanted, you start with communication. If you want your staff to do something differently, don’t assume that they can read your mind (sound familiar?); you need to tell them what needs to change and how it will change. Think of it as if you’re playing a board game and you want to change the rules; you’d have to tell everyone what the new rules are, right? Same is true in the workplace. New rules, new protocols, new responsibilities. Be culpable, recognize to your staff that you let this happen, and that you take responsibility for how things have been done in the past. Finally, remember that habits are tough to change and it may take time. Your staff is not deliberately ignoring your request (if they are, that’s another conversation we need to have!), they have just developed a habit and it may take time to adopt a new habit. Be patient and keep the communication going as your team’s behavior (and your own) slowly changes.

By the way, the solution works for another age-old question, one I heard just this morning: “How do I get my kids to pick up their laundry?”  Stop doing it for them. Like I said, simple, but not easy.

Break Free, Part 2 – Taking the Next Step

Even when we feel we're stuck between a rock and a hard place, we still have to move forward!

Even when we feel we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, we still have to move forward!



All too often, we set goals at the beginning of a new year and then about mid-March, we realize that we are nowhere close to reaching those goals. We’ve thought a lot about those goals, debated them, thought about what the next step should be, and wondered if we really have what it takes to succeed. I’ve been thinking a lot about simply moving forward (see last week’s post). I’m here to tell you that yes, you do have what it takes, and it’s simpler than you think: all you have to do is take the next logical step.

I’ve been meeting with some prospective clients recently who were so excited about their new 2014 goals and the plans to reach them; I could hear the possibility in their voices. When I ask them about the progress they’ve made, I’ve seen surprise as two things happen:

  1. It sinks in that they haven’t been keeping track of their progress, and;
  2. They realize that they have made very little, if any, progress and it’s almost 25% through the year.


Before I give you my tried and true strategy of getting out of this position, let me just state some assumptions:

  • The goal is their own goal, not their spouse’s, a parent, or a goal declared by an “expert”;
  • The goal is big enough. We hear about “big bodacious” goals; that’s a nice catchy phrase, but if it’s so big that it paralyzes you, it’s not much of a goal;
  • The goal is small enough. I love big goals, but if we can’t see any path from where we are to our stated goal, it might need to be downsized. As Goldilocks famously said, “This one is just right.” Personally, goals ought to teeter right on the line of scary and exciting. Reaching those goals is a rush for motivated small business owners.

If those assumptions are true, the strategy is simple:

Just take the next logical step.


When I’m feeling stuck, or just not sure what to do with the next hour, I ask myself that simple question, “What’s the next logical step?” It’s usually asking a question, sending an inquiry, writing a first draft of something – all simple, doable actions. If the next logical step requires some research, give yourself a time limit or it’s easy to get lost in the infamous “Internet research”. 20 minutes is plenty. If you find yourself fast-forwarding to possible outcomes of that one single action, bring yourself back to present and remind yourself that you are only focused on that one action.

Find a goal that’s right and true for you and focus on just that one next logical step. We’ve heard the message many times, but it’s true: every journey does begin with a step. All you have to do is keep going. 


Break Free: 5 Tips to Break Out of “Stuck-ness”





For some reason, I was having a hard time truly accomplishing anything of substance this morning. I hear this from my clients often, and it can sometimes last for days and weeks. Here is a quick list you can go through to move from being “stuck” to being in overdrive.

  1. Recognize your “stuck-ness”. Try to figure out what is blocking you from moving forward. Common blocks are boredom, the need for a decision (you may not have enough information), or being overwhelmed with chaos.
  2. Take 30 minutes to resolve your block – set a timer if necessary. Clean up the clutter, get the missing information, or take a walk around the block.
  3. Decide what one action will most move you forward. Figure out the one next action and do that one thing. Tout à fait fini (over and done).
  4. Create a ritual that defines your overdrive mode. Could be a special chair, location, or a cup of joe, whatever will tell you when THIS happens, I move forward and get stuff done.
  5. Just start whatever you feel stuck around. Don’t worry about completing it (yet). Get started – you never know where you might end up.

I’m sitting in my special writing chair, got an iced tea by my side, and I started an article by just writing the pieces that I felt confident about. You’ll never guess what happened: I finished the article and then decided to help someone else who might be having a stuck moment, too, by giving you this step-by-step guide to moving from stuck-ness to overdrive.  

Another Snowy Day…4 Ways to Make the Day Productive

Don't let snow days keep you down. Stay productive and positive with these four tips!

Don’t let snow days keep you down. Stay productive and positive with these four tips!

Another snowy day. Schools, government offices, and businesses are shut down here and throughout as much as a third of the country. I’m having a hard time focusing with my kids and husband home, and the front walkway is beckoning to me to clean it off. Shoveling is gratifying to me because I have a goal, I can watch my progress and see what is still in front of me. On a day like today, my desk cannot compete. I’m going to have to pull out all the stops to accomplish something today. Here’s what I do to stay on task:

  1. I’ve made a short list of four actions I want to complete today, plus a “bonus”. I could try to tackle five times that and probably feel frustrated when I don’t complete it all; instead, I’ll be happy with these four important tasks well-done. I’ve chosen these four because they all move my business forward. I am especially excited about one of them because I think it will surprise a client and help them move forward quickly.
  2. I’ve accepted that interruptions will occur and have planned for them. There is solid research that backs up the value of taking breaks every 90 to 120 minutes. While I often struggle to take breaks, today I am embracing them.
  3. Set up a reward system. As soon as I finish this post, I know that I get to go shovel. I can’t wait!
  4. As part of my four action items, I’ve outlined with which I want help from my team members, my in-house IT department (aka my dear husband), and even my children. Sure, I could do most of them more quickly myself, but my work gets completed more quickly and we feel like a team.

Tackle your work like you would shoveling; set a goal, monitor your progress, and enjoy the accomplishment. Now I’m off to the front walkway! 

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.