Developing routines for success

A routine life leads to success. I’m not talking about the definition of routine that is the equivalent of “ordinary”. I’m talking about having a style of repetitiveness in life that gets you closer to your goals each day.

We all have routines in our life; a morning routine, a workout routine, eating routines, etc. Routines are important because they provide the structure we need to do certain tasks efficiently on a daily basis. But, have you ever stopped to think about your routines? Probably not, which is why they are routine! Even if you don’t think about the routines themselves, have you thought about how your routines are effecting your ability to be successful?

Where we get in trouble is when our routines set us up for failure. For instance, if a person has a routine of drinking three cups of coffee in the morning followed by a large lunch, there’s a good chance that person will have a 2 o’clock crash each afternoon that prevents them from being productive the rest of the day. The key to success is to develop routines that help you get closer to your goals, not further away. So how can we analyze and develop routines that put us on the right path?

Take note of your current routines.

Some people have being doing the same activities the same way for so long that they don’t even take notice anymore! You can’t expect to change your current routines or develop new ones if you’re unaware of the routines you currently have. Start out by deliberately watching yourself for an entire week. Take notes of the the patterns, activities and habits that you perform each day.

One of the incredible things about people with deeply routed routines is that they often perform these routines at nearly the exact same time every day. Have you ever caught yourself looking at your watch at the same time each day? It’s not a coincidence. Our bodies have extremely accurate internal clocks, and our routines often revolve around them. When you’re noting your routines, also make notes of the times these routines are happening.

Determine which routines are having a negative impact.

Again, we all need routines in our lives to provide structure, and so that we don’t have to process each and every task. But we need to eliminate the routines that are negatively impacting our body, our productivity and and thoughts. Take a look at all the routines you have written down for yourself. Is there one or two that stick out that could be preventing you from reaching your goals or succeeding?

One of the negative routines I noticed about myself was the times and frequency with which I was checking my email. I had a routine of checking my email several times a day, and often during the middle of trying to focus on an important task. I would check my email when I first sat down at the desk, then again around 8:45, and again around 10 and so on. I was setting myself up for failure because not only was I interrupting my focus on a particular task, I would often shift my focus completely to something that came up in an email. I knew that I had to adjust my email routine in order to stay focused on my most important tasks without interruptions.

Modify and create routines.

Now that you’ve identified one or more routines that may be leading you down the wrong path, it’s time to change them! As per my email example, I had to consciously stop the urge to check my email so frequently. I also learned to check my email in between important tasks, such as at lunch time and during an afternoon break.  This helped me to stay focused on my highest priority projects and get them done faster.

You also need to create new routines that will help you form habits to be successful. One example may be blocking out the same time each week to send thank you notes. Another example of a routine I have been using for a couple of years now is making a point to not take appointments on Friday afternoons, leaving them open for me to plan and strategize on my business. Without implementing this routine, I would likely never find the time during a normal work week to focus solely on improving my business.

Getting rid of negative routines and building routines that will improve the way you live and do business is not easy, but it is certainly worth the investment you will make!

I’d like to hear about the routines in your day that have helped you become successful! Please leave a comment below, or send me an email with your comments and stories!

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planning your week - to-do list

Does it sometimes bother you when people say “I have too much to do and not enough time to get it done!“? Yeah, it bothers me too! But, I’ll admit, I have said the same thing from time to time. I try to avoid saying that now, though. I’ve found that saying I have too much to do and not enough time either A. leaves me feeling overwhelmed and rushed or B. distracts me to the point that I don’t know what to start working on first. Does this happen to you?

For several years now, I’ve been an avid student of the study of time management. I have this “obsession” (as my wife calls it) for trying to get the most out of each day. Even though it makes it hard for me to relax sometimes, I have found quite a bit of success in improving my time management skills. I can often now accomplish more in a single day then I used to in a week. So what’s the “secret sauce”? It all starts with planning for the week!

Productivity is more than day-to-day.

Most of us have a tendency to be overly optimistic. Have you ever woke up in the morning and said to yourself, “I’m going to get everything done on my to-do list today!”. Then, by three o’clock that afternoon, you look at your list and only have one or two things crossed off? It happens to everyone! When we think we can get a lot accomplished in a day, we’re often overestimating.

Rather than waking up each day deciding how much we are going to get done, it’s more helpful to look at your entire week. Time management is not about getting the most things accomplished, it’s about getting the right things accomplished. If you’re spending each day trying to complete the most tasks, you’re often not getting the highest priority tasks completed. Instead, you need to look at your entire week as a whole, and determine which tasks must be done this week.

Categorizing your week.

Speaking of determining which tasks must get done in a week, I have a helpful to-do list productivity sheet that you can download for free to help! There are a couple key benefits to using a weekly to-do list sheet like this:

  1. All of your tasks are listed on one sheet that you use for the entire week, as opposed to making a new to-do list every day. By having one weekly list, you’ll be more apt to plan for your entire week instead of day-by-day, and you’ll also be less likely to “drop the ball” on certain tasks that were forgotten about on your prior day’s sheet.
  2. By categorizing your tasks into different groups (such as “jobs for customers”, “marketing tasks”, “general office tasks”) it’s easier to recognize which ones are the highest priority for the week. You’ll often find that one category will be more time sensitive one week compared to the next.

Once you have your list made, you won’t have the confused or overwhelmed feeling each day, because you’ll know which tasks to start with. Don’t forget to add tasks to your weekly list right as you receive them, to help prevent “dropping the ball”!

Use the rule of three.

I have found through years of experience that most people can get an average of three tasks completed per day. This may sound low, but if you think about it, people typically have distractions and other obligations during a normal day that prevent them from getting more done. Of course if you’re rushing through jobs, you may be able to get more done. But be careful, because as my grandpa used to tell me all the time when I was a kid “If you don’t have time to do something right the first time, when will you have time to do it again?”.

With the rule of three in mind, it’s a helpful way to look at your entire week in a realistic way. You’ll be able to see the “chunks” of time that you need to allocate to getting your highest priority tasks completed by the end of the week. This will help you from over committing yourself!

So get started today by planning out the remainder of your week, and you’ll see just how much more efficient you can be!

I am excited to hear how planning out your week has helped increase your productivity!  Please leave a comment below, or send me an email with your thoughts!

 

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Selling is an activity that I struggled with greatly when I first started my technology business. I used to be a very introverted person, and talking to strangers (let alone trying to sell them something) was extremely difficult for me!  I can remember pacing the floor for an hour before making a sales call, going over in my head exactly what I would say. Or if I was meeting someone in person, I would have the A/C on full blast in my car while driving to their office, just to stop the profuse sweating. A typical sales call included getting tongue tied and mostly making a complete fool of myself.

Because I was a one-man operation in my technology business, I couldn’t just sit back and do the behind the scenes work. I had to learn to sell, because it was the only way of gaining clients (and a paycheck!). I knew that I had to learn how to sell as an introverted person, and not try and duplicate the techniques of salespeople who are more outgoing. After reading several books on selling, but mostly trial and error on my own, I found several techniques that not only helped me stay calm while selling, but also helped close sales more often than not. Here are three of the techniques I benefited from the most:

Know your product.

I can’t tell you how many times someone has tried to sell me something without even knowing the ins and outs of their own products. I received calls all the time from people trying to sell me website hosting, the latest antivirus software or other technology related products. When I questioned them on certain features or aspects of their products, I often found out that they didn’t have the answers. And they expected me to buy it?

No matter if you’re selling a product, a service or an idea, you need to know everything about what you are trying to sell. For an introverted person trying to sell, it’s crucial that you stay calm during the sales process, or you’re likely to get too flustered to actually make the sell. If you know everything there is to know about your product, you won’t get tripped up or start raining sweat down your face when a potential client asks you a question.

You’ll also be able to stay focused on what your product can do for the client by knowing all of the benefits your product has to offer. This is what clients really care about! Know your product and how it will benefit the client, and the sale is half made.

Let the other person do the talking.

I often assumed I was bad at selling because I didn’t like to talk. Now that I’ve had the chance to sell to hundreds of customers, I know that I was exactly wrong. In fact, I sometimes feel sorry for those salespeople who are extremely extroverted and like to hear the sound of their own voice.

I strongly believe us introverted people have a leg up over our extroverted counterparts, because we don’t like to do the talking. Any good book on selling you read or great salesperson you visit with will tell you that getting the other person to do the talking is key. So what do you have to be good at as an introvert? Asking questions and listening.

As an introvert, I’m sure that you’re probably already a pretty good listener! The area of listening that I had to improve upon while selling was remembering. It’s not just enough to hear the client and their needs, you also have to remember those needs so you can fill those needs during the sales process. Don’t be afraid to take a few notes as the other person is talking to you, just be sure to look up from your notepad from time to time and make eye contact with them, so that they know you are still listening.

You’ll likely struggle more with asking questions. Thankfully, you’re selling the same products each time for the most part, so after a few sales you’ll start to figure out exactly what questions get the responses you’re looking for. It’s also helpful to make a list of questions you’re going to ask before you meet with the client. Then all you have to do is ask the questions and set back and listen!

Remember, you’re selling yourself.

I’ve found that the reason I’ve closed most of my sales, and in turn generated more sales through referrals, was because people were in a sense buying me. Someone else may have just as good of a product as you, maybe even at a lower price point, but people will do business with a person that they like and trust.

When you’re headed into a sales call or meeting, it’s important to understand that they are not only buying your product, but in all likelihood determining if you are the type of person they want to do business with. Because you already know your product inside and out (remember tip #1? ), you can stay focused during the selling process on selling yourself. You do this by listening to their needs and showing that you care about them (tip #2!). People also want to know that you will be there for them from the time you first visit with them, through the sale and especially after the sale. If they feel they can trust you and that you will take care of them, you have all but made the sale.

While I didn’t mention anything about closing the sale (which is a crucial part of selling), I’ve tried to give you techniques that will make the closing practically a formality. As an introverted person, asking someone directly to buy something was the most difficult part of selling. I found that by using the above techniques, most of my clients either asked for the sale themselves, or all I had to do was ask when they would like to get started. Once you have found out what the customer needs, demonstrated how you can fill that need and shown that you are a person they can trust, you’ll find it easy and enjoyable to finish the sale!

I would love to get your feedback if these techniques help you in your sales process, or other selling techniques you have found useful as an introverted person! Please leave a comment below, or send me an email with your thoughts!

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