Stopping to create procedures will appear a waste of time at first.
In the time it takes to document a new procedure, you could have the task done already.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that while you may need to perform the task many times, you will only need to document it once.
Sure, the document may need to be updated from time to time. But that won’t take anywhere near as long as it did to create it in the first place.
Further, by the time you’ve documented a task, you can delegate it and have someone else handle it. You can free up time in your own schedule to focus on what you do best.
In systems, there’s always a short-term sacrifice for a long-term payoff. From a zoomed-out perspective, building a team is effectively the same way – there’s a short-term sacrifice for a long-term result.
I’ve tried both ways.
Improvising does leave space for others to contribute and speculate on what could be created together.
Unfortunately, a lack of direction can also become the bane of your existence. Team members may not know how to help and may not stick around if you do not lay out a clear plan with specific actions to be taken.
To be fair, I’ve still accomplished some cool things while improvising. I launched Elite Players: All Access Pass and raised over $2,000 for Sahakarini. I’m not saying there was no intention behind these projects, but I threw caution to the wind when it came to the details.
Coming prepared is a different feeling.
While showing up with a plan may not leave as much space for others to contribute and speculate on what could be created together…
It makes next actions very clear. Your team members get a better sense of where and how they can contribute. They have a better idea when the project is moving and when it’s not.
And, while I hate to admit it, I have found that team members are also more inspired to take ownership of the project and be in action when there’s clarity. They also stick around.
It may take many tries to figure out how to come prepared, however, so improvising still serves an important purpose, especially while you’re learning how to prepare.
In business, Noah’s Ark is about having two of everything, because one of anything is a compromise.
Internet connections can go down. Hard drives can crap out. Superstar employees can quit. And if you don’t have a backup, you’ll have to rebuild the infrastructure you worked so hard to set up in the first place.
This is a position of compromise, and smart and experienced entrepreneurs don’t like positions of compromise. They like to address problems before they crop up.
Of course, you can’t know everything that’s going to happen before it happens. But if you have two of everything, it ensures that your business can continue to operate under fire, sometimes without interruption.
Monday morning, I was starting to feel the early warning signs of a flu. Like most illnesses that seem to pass me by, I didn’t think it was going to take. But it did. All the symptoms ambushed me last night – fever, chills, aches, headache, coughing, and runny nose.
Today hasn’t been a walk in the park, though I can be grateful that I’m about to wrap up my day before 10:00 PM, which is good for a Thursday.
But this led me to a key realization. I need a backup for myself.
Until now, I simply couldn’t see how I might be able to make this happen. Now I remember that there’s a lot of strength in partners and duos. When they’re banging on all cylinders, they’re not twice as effective, they’re able to accomplish so much more.
Today, I much rather would have enjoyed staying in bed than working for nearly 12 hours straight. If there was someone who had my back, I wouldn’t have had to do it all myself.
I see now that anything could happen, and if for whatever reason I couldn’t do the work, loss of income and reputation is unavoidable. If I have a trustworthy partner, we wouldn’t have to lose the revenue. We would simply spread it differently among ourselves.
Having a partner would also enable me to free up time and take on other projects. I bet we could find some better paying work.
I can’t do it all myself. I’m about as booked up as I wish to be. There’s no sense in trying to be superhuman all the time. A more sensible plan is to grow my team.
There will be a process to hiring, onboarding, and training, but I can see it being worthwhile if I can find someone I can divide and conquer with.
What do you do when you’re starting to feel burnt out, your bank account is less than ideal, you’re waiting on a payment that’s being held in escrow, you need to move in two months, and as result, you can’t move certain aspects of your project forward?
This is exactly what I’ve been facing. And here’s what I’ve been discovering in limbo.
Clear Thinking & Problem Solving Go Out the Window with Burnout
You have a project, you know what the goal is, even your team knows what the goal is (having worked with you for months).
But some part of you feels responsible for things not moving. And then you feel like you should start inventing work, even if just to keep busy, or to find some ancillary activity that might end up contributing to the project.
The problem is you’re too exhausted to problem solve or come up with good ideas. So again, you return to self-blame.
But realistically, bad decisions are made when you’re tired, so adding to your workload at the wrong time might ultimately be a waste of time, energy, and resources. Only, you won’t realize this until later.
What I’ve recognized is that having a good team makes a big difference. They will help you stay on track when you feel like you’re losing sight of what matters.
Backup plans can also help. If you can prepare for those times you know you won’t be able to access clear thinking, you won’t have to, because you’ll have structures in place that inform your decisions.
People Don’t Know
There’s someone on the other end of every interaction and it’s altogether too easy to forget. You never know the kind of day that person has had, what’s happening in their life, or how things have changed, even in the last 24 hours.
As we continue to embrace and get entrenched in remote work, perhaps the biggest challenge of all is you don’t know what state anyone is in, and it’s too easy to bypass the conversation altogether.
“Since I can text or email them 24/7, shouldn’t they also be at my beck and call 24/7?” It gets weird headed fast.
I was talking with my landlord just yesterday, who asked me how work was going with a tone that said, “do you ever do anything?”
And the truth is 12-hour+ days have been quite the norm with my leadership program, businesses, musical projects, and freelance writing work. And it’s been that way for months now.
Given the world we now find ourselves in, being considerate in every conversation is a practice we’d all do well to adopt. Because you just never know how others are doing.
Cash Flow Makes Everything Possible
Some of the slowdown I’ve been experiencing is directly tied to the availability of resources. There would not have been any stalling out if cash flow wasn’t an issue.
And this is one of those classic cases I’ve talked about before.
Things are going well for me. I have enough work. And new opportunities are already starting to line up.
So, it’s not as though I don’t have a solid base income. I’d just hit a spell where too much money had gone out, and not enough money had come in. So, my hands were tied for about two weeks.
Money is not required to move every aspect of a project forward. Most of my team, in fact, are working without financial incentivization. But realistically, some things just aren’t going to get done without reinvesting in the project.
Cash flow makes everything possible. When you need to invest in a business app or some hired help, you’ll be able to spring for it. Importantly, if your needs are met, you’ll have more time and energy to dedicate to the project too.
It’s fair to say that much of the above is already starting to work itself out.
I’ve been off caffeine for four or five days and I’ve been getting to bed earlier. I also haven’t been starting work until 10 AM and hold to a hard cutoff at 9 PM (though I sometimes end earlier). I’m feeling better, bit by bit.
The payment that I’ve been waiting on finally came through. And now I need to go and celebrate.
Best of all, I think, I’ve been able to glean a few lessons from limbo. And in the future, I will have this document to refer to, should I find myself in limbo again.
See what else I’m up to.
An earlier post on this topic struck a chord with readers. So, following it up with a more in-depth look at making your artistic ambitions a reality is necessary.
I am a champion of artistic success, and as such, you can think of me as your cheerleader, though you will never see me in tantalizing short skirts. It simply isn’t my style. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with that.
Before I commit to digital ink anything else I might privately chuckle at and publicly regret, let’s move right into the key steps that will have you effective in reaching your 2022 objectives.
1. Create Your Unfolding Plan
No, not a plan. An unfolding plan.
And while some might argue that’s little more than semantics, I have personally experienced and observed the difference an unfolding plan can make, especially compared to the usual rigmarole of setting New Years Resolutions and hoping and praying they will manifest all on their own. If you’re a proponent of laziness and sloth, this article is not for you, and you would be better served with mainstream spiritual shlock.
One of the all-time best-selling authors said:
Begin with the end in mind.
Who was it? Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey. You would not be any worse off reading his volume, paying careful attention to Covey’s quadrants, which are the definitive pillars of personal productivity.
The unfolding plan, as you’ve surely inferred already, begins with the end in mind and is unfolded from there.
How to Set Up Your Unfolding Plan
The basic framework is as follows:
- Look three months ahead. What will you have accomplished? Envision it in rich detail, including the celebration party that follows, and write it all down as a done deal (e.g., “we have launched a New York Times best-selling book”).
- What will you have accomplished in month one (first milestone) to have gotten the outcome defined in the final step? Write that down.
- What will you have accomplished in month two (second milestone) to have gotten the outcome defined in the final step? Write that down.
- What are the weekly actions that will support you in reaching your milestones and outcome? Create these actions as promises, requests (of others), and conversations to be had.
- Create a space to document your accomplishments, update as you go, and review them often. You will be surprised and amazed at what ultimately gets done.
2. Build Your Team
We’re all lone wolves. Only some are willing to admit it.
You will get better results in your endeavors if you allow others to contribute to you and your projects.
Though I’m harping on a point I’ve raised many times already, fundamentally your team can take any form. Not everyone on your team needs to be a paid employee, but ideally, they are personally incentivized.
Today, you have access to:
Hold weekly meetings and ask plenty of questions. Listen to the answers. The ideas you generate together will far surpass anything you can conceivably come up on your own.
Never micromanage. It’s a waste of your time, and it just annoys others when you don’t give them the space and time to fulfill on their promises. Don’t manage people – instead, manage promises and commitments.
And at the risk of sounding trendy, regularly ask “who?” not “how?”
How to Build Your Team
Place a phone call. Be direct in sharing why you’re calling and what the conversation is going to be about. Share your idea and invite them to contribute. Whether you get a “yes” or “no,” accept the answer graciously. The outcome isn’t as important as the action taken. Keep making calls until you have a team of six.
Always take the time to get into their world and ask what’s important to them. There’s a way to help them get what they want through their participation in your project, and it’s your job to identify how that’s going to work.
3. Move Projects Forward with Urgent Concurrency
I’m an adventurer, looking for answers to the questions of creatives in a variety of niches, fields, and industries. This answer must be credited to author Dan Kennedy, and if you can still get in, a subscription to Magnetic Marketing will stimulate viable actions and enrich your creativity prolifically.
“Successful people don’t do one thing, step by step, as we are taught in school,” says Kennedy. “They move multiple projects forward with great urgency.” This discovery was also mentioned in my holiday reflections, and it has been my modus operandi from the moment I heard it.
I run multiple businesses, write daily blog posts, participate in community projects, hold down multiple staff writing and ghostwriting contracts, make music, engage in personal development (I’m currently in a yearlong leadership program), and still have time enough to work out three times per week, keep a social life, and wind down for a couple of hours at the end of each day.
How to Move Projects Forward with Urgency Concurrency
Perfectionism will not serve you. Learn when something is “good enough” and get used to publishing. The only way to get used to publishing is to publish regularly.
Have a start and end time for every activity in your life. Say, “X project must be done by Y time” and be unreasonable with yourself.
Minimize calls, meetings, and other distractions that might take you away from actioning your plan. Commit to weekly progress with every project.
Also see: How to Move Multiple Projects Forward Powerfully
We often assume complete freedom and crystal clarity in moving forward with next steps in our artistic career when we haven’t done the hard work of reflecting on the year past and identifying where and why we’re constrained.
If this describes you, you will profit from a read of my Start Your Year the Right Way, in which targeted prompts will guide you through exercises to complete years past so you are free and clear to act now in the present.
If you are looking for further guidance on the topic, a perusal of my products and services will serve you. I am always adding new solutions to help creatives just like you, and while I’m not affordable, I am worthwhile. Set yourself up to reach your 2022 objectives with flying colors.
What have you taken on in 2022? What do you intend to accomplish? What structures and systems have you implemented?