5 Tips for Focusing on the 5 Feet in Front of You

 

During Wintertime I always remember learning to drive in the frozen tundra that is upstate New York. I can still hear the jangle of tire chains as I would navigate my Mother's orange Mercury Zephyr wagon over the ice and snow blanketed Route 9. The snow would come down so hard that you could only focus on the 5 feet in front of you. With a singular mission of making, it home alive (with no damage to car of course), you could not afford any distractions.

Being a business owner at this moment in time is a bit like those white knuckle drives down Route 9. The snowstorm is here, and you must be able to focus on the five feet in front of you. The challenge is that most business owners struggle with focusing on the five feet in front of them. The following are 5 tips for focusing on the 5 feet in front you and making it home safely to fight another day.

1. Focus on the Next 90 Days
Consider the next 90-days the 5 feet in front of you. Create a list of your current issues and prioritize which issues are the most important to be addressed within the next 90-days. Enlist your team, peers, friends, or family to help you. An outside view is always helpful. Pick one issue to focus on over the next 90-days. Once you realize that you are unwilling to pick one issue, pick no more than three. Put the remaining issues on a separate list called the "Parking Lot." If you make it home safely, you can address those later. For each issue, identify what done or resolved looks like and list the steps you will take to get there. Monitor your progress toward resolving these issues on a weekly basis.

2. Keep a "No List" Visible in Your Office
Saying no to projects, issues, and tasks you are not going to do this quarter is as important as the ones you are going to work on. Put a giant sticky note in front of your work area, write the word "NO" in capital letters with a wide sharpie marker, and list everything you are not going to do the next 90-days. It will be hard but stick to the list.

3. Identify the 5 Highest and Best Uses of Your Time
Make a quick list of the activities you are currently doing. Create a column to right of list and rank your current activities in order of lowest to highest and best use of your time. Pick your 5 highest value activities. These are the activities you will focus on over the next 90-days. The rest of the activities need to automated, delegated, or put on your "no list" for at least the next 90-days.

4. Turn the Radio Off
Decide what is acceptable to feed your brain and body. For me to be at my best I need a big salad for lunch, lots of water, 20 minutes of guitar practice, and a long walk every day. Unfortunately, chips, social media, and watching the news does not make the cut. None of those support my 90-day outcomes and must go on the "no list." Discern between the things that support your goals and those that deter your goals.

5. Create and Monitor a Simple Dashboard
Your car's dashboard has many indicators, but when you are driving through the snow, you are only watching the road ahead of you and listening for unexpected changes in the vehicles handling. Nothing else matters. Pick a small number of things you can measure that will predict the health of the business and monitor these on a weekly basis. Speed up, slow down, or change direction only if necessary.

Conclusion
Winter is here and as a business owner you need to be very focused. Many of us are not where we want to be in our business, and it is easy to become distracted. Make it to Spring by staying focused on the next 90-days, saying no to less important priorities, and only spending your time on tasks that are the highest best use of your time.


Working from Home Blows!

 

There! I said what most of us are thinking. The word around this town is that no one is going to need office space in the future. We will all just be working from home or wherever we can find an Internet connection. I do not think this true and here is why:

1. Many jobs require a collaborative work environment. One in which people can see and read each other's expressions. One in which you randomly bounce ideas off each other. Tony Hsieh, the late great founder of Zappos, believed in the value of fostered in person ad hoc "collisions" amongst people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets to create a culture of innovation. This is very difficult, if not impossible, to emulate in a virtual world.

2. Not everyone's home environment is conducive to getting stuff done. I have the attention span of a nat. Even with a dedicated home office, older Children, and a large home I am constantly distracted by the comings and goings of my dog, family members, and various people throughout the cul-de-sac. I cannot shove enough focus music in my ears to drown out the background noise and I do not have the self-discipline to avoid the temptations of doing other things around the house. When I pull up to my office, I am in uniform and ready to work. Not there to lounge about.

3. Companies will realize that for each dollar they save on their office lease, they will lose $1.50 in efficiency. As I gaze out of my home office window, I see several high paid corporate people working on their homes. Perhaps they all took the day off to do this work? I do not know and most likely neither do their employers. Just click-off the video and take the call on your headphones. The reality is that most people need accountability. It is the same reason you and I go to the gym. You need to see other people working hard and they need to see you.

Conclusion
No doubt that the awareness of virtual meeting technologies such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have helped and inspired more people to work remotely, but these are not one-size-fits-all solutions. More people will work remotely, but not everyone. For me, I will go the office when I can and do a virtual meeting when I must.


The 3 Things I Learned About Business from my Guitar Teacher

 

Some of my best lessons in life come from the most unexpected places. I had an opportunity this past summer to take virtual lessons from Caleb Davis, one the best guitarists, musicians, and instructors in the Southeast. Although I learned a lot of new guitar techniques, Caleb also taught me a lot about business through an "Artist's lens." The following are the three things Caleb taught me about business

1. Most People Aren't Tone Deaf, they are Just Lazy. For years, I was convinced that most musicians are born with innate talent that enables them to create their art and I just was not born with it. Nope… It turns out that they put in their 10,000+ hours like everyone else that wants to master a skill. I am certain that Caleb wakes-up and goes to bed with a guitar in His hands. In fact, when I asked How many hours He spent mastering guitar, He estimated it to be North of 30,000 hours! The more I study other artists, the more I realize that they all spend hundreds and thousands of hours mastering their craft. The part that we see on Social Media is the result with a beautiful filter. You rarely see a picture of the Artist playing the same scale repeatedly for hours at a time getting ready to toss their instrument out of the second story window.

2. Your Job is to Make Music. You just happen to pick the guitar as your instrument. I have heard this advice in different forms twice before. Musician John Mayer stated in an interview that He was a Musician first and a Guitarist second. I didn’t understand it then. When asked years ago, I told my Business Coach that I was in the computer business. I was puzzled when He told me that I was in the business of providing cool tools and it just so happened that my current tool was a computer. I did not get it then either. The point is subtle, but very important. If you look at the bigger picture of what you are providing the world, you become much less attached to the tools and more focused on the result.

3. Make Something You Want to Make. Then find out if there is an audience. This is completely back@sswards to the way most of us have been taught to do business. We spend days in meetings trying to figure out what the ideal customer wants, and we attempt to craft a product or service around their needs. The reality is that people buy for their own reasons and its nearly impossible to quantify why they would want to buy your art from the start. I am not suggesting that you build something in a vacuum, but we should all probably launch a lot quicker and find out who really wants what we have to offer. As a side note, it is much more fun to build what you want to make then to try to appease an audience.

Conclusion

“Natural talent” comes in the form of spending many hours mastering your craft, recognizing the bigger picture of what you are providing, and finding an audience for something you truly enjoy making. And why not learn a little guitar along the way.