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How to do less, better

By Liz Walz

Many of us share the same problem. When it comes to our work, we want to do it all.

Of course, we’re smart enough to know that we can’t. But knowing often isn’t enough to change our behavior and stop us from trying to do what we know is impossible.

We take on more and more because we love what we do, so it’s easy to get fired up about tackling something new. It feels good to take the burden off of someone else’s shoulders. And we feel a sense of responsibility to our organization – for many of you, the ultimate sense of responsibility that comes with ownership.

Some of you may be asking: Why is this a problem? It’s good to love your job, work hard, be ambitious and take responsibility.

But here’s the rub: If we’re going to get where we aim to be professionally, we have to have the discipline to focus our time and energy on the areas where we are personally capable of generating the biggest results. And frankly, if we’re trying to do it all, we’re probably spending most of our time on tasks that aren’t going to move that needle.

One of the ways to frame this discussion is to look at time spent working in our businesses vs. on our businesses. We often think of this as an equation to be calculated by owners and general managers. But I would argue that we all need to consider it, regardless of our position. Just substitute the word “career” for the word “business.”

If you have a goal, personal or professional, that involves the results you generate at work, you need to have a plan to get to that goal, a way of tracking your progress, and time set aside on a regular basis to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies you’re using to get there.

But I’ve left out one important piece: You also need to make it a priority to expose yourself to new strategies, ones you haven’t tried before and may never have come up with on your own. The strategies we used effectively a year ago may not work as well today, and if we don’t take the time to look outside the four walls of our organization, we’ll fall further and further behind.

So here’s the challenge: Let’s start this year fresh. To begin, we need to get clear on our goals. I’m talking about the goals that will maximize our personal contribution to our organizations.

You might ask yourself questions like: What results have I been hired to accomplish? What three tasks within my job description contribute the most value to my organization? And from the late Peter Drucker: What can I and only I do that if done well will make a real difference?

Now, I realize that you business owners may laugh at the idea of a job description or perhaps not remember ever being hired. But for you, this means taking that last question particularly seriously.

Once you have those goals in hand – and it might just be one BIG goal – it’s time to set deadlines, map out a plan, and finally schedule time and create a system to track your progress and re-evaluate your efforts. Because if you’re going to plan and not follow through on the plan, planning DOES become the waste of time it’s often accused of being.

Finally, as uncomfortable as it might be, we need to begin saying “No” to tasks and responsibilities that fall outside those key areas of focus. That may mean doing a better job of delegating or simply accepting that we can’t do it all.

“Every minute spent in planning saves as many as 10 minutes in execution,” according to business consultant, speaker and author Brian Tracy. If that’s not an incentive to go through such an exercise, I’m not sure what is.

You don’t have to do this alone. There are books (e.g. “Eat That Frog!” by Brian Tracy), business courses on goal setting and strategic planning both inside and outside the marine industry, 20 Groups and the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo.

We specifically designed the MDCE educational agenda to not only lead you through the goal setting and planning process, but also to be that much needed source of new strategies for every employee.

I hope you’ll join me and more than 1,000 members of the boating business there, Nov. 17-20, in Orlando, Fla. But whether you make it or not, I’d love to hear about your journey to do less, better.

Liz Walz is director of membership & marketing for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. To learn more, visit www.mraa.com or email her at liz@mraa.com.


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