We’re a little over a quarter of the way into the year and it’s the perfect time to Reflect and Reset. #SorryNotSorry if you thought this was going to be a post all about spa breaks, sheet masks and green juices.
It’s tough running a small business and I know first-hand how quickly the year can fly by. That’s why with the Easter break coming up, and the handily timed Anzac day public holiday, it is the perfect time to carry out a little business R&R. That’s why I’m taking the coming week off to reflect on the year so far, recharge the batteries and review my own business’ KPIs ready to hit the ground running as we move into May.Back home in the UK Easter lands right as spring is starting to flourish; the trees have started to blossom and there are baby lambs in the countryside (yes, it really is like this and not just something you see in movies!). For me, this always seems to feel like new beginnings and fresh starts. So, if you have been meaning to take time to review your marketing for your business, now is the time to do so.
Read on to discover a couple of handy ways I’ll be carrying out a little R&R for my business this Easter break. Importantly these are versatile techniques can be applied to many business situations – team meetings, end of project reviews. Let me know how you use these and how they’ve helped you! Send me an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
This really is as simple as it sounds. Treat yourself to a fat block of Post-It notes and jot down things you’d like to stop doing, things you’d like to start doing and things you’d like to continue doing. After you’ve written down your comments, stick them up on the wall organised under the above headings.
If you’re then doing this in a group give everyone 3 votes to cast. Determine which of the actions you’ve listed out are top priority. You can do this with a sticker or simply a big dot mark on the sticky note of your choosing.
Agree Actions. I cannot stress this enough. Meetings where you talk for hours and leave with no actions are pretty pointless. We’ve all got things to be getting on with. Decide what needs doing, who is going to do it and agree a timeline to achieve these things.
Time yourself. If you’re doing this in a group setting or just at home on your own, by timing yourself you’ll increase the urgency and force yourself to ‘brain-dump’ more freely. There is no limit to how many Post-It notes you can produce, other than the timer. I’d recommend 5-7 minutes max or you’ll run out of steam.
Use a fat pen. By using a chunkier marker pen like a Sharpie you prevent yourself from writing an essay on each Post-It and you’ll be able to quick-fire things onto your sticky notes with ease. (Bonus, it also makes them easier to read if you’re doing this in a meeting room with colleagues).
If you’ve got a huge to-do list or you’re trying to break out a project’s actions into bitesize chunks, the above matrix is a handy tool to help you do just that. Again this uses Post-It notes. (If anyone can recommend a more sustainable alternative I’d love to know!) This can also be carried out in a group setting if you need!
Step 1: Jot down all your tasks, each one on its own sticky note. Again, sometimes this is a good time to set a timer, to prevent you being stuck in a task generating loop.
Step 2: Organise your tasks along the axis VALUE vs EFFORT. I usually do this by drawing the axis on a white board or a big sheet of paper and sticking Post-Its in the relevant areas. Important Note: value can be both tangible and intangible. The task may hold value by reducing your stress levels umpteen times or it may hold value by generating loads of $$$ (both of which would be nice!)
Step 3: If you find you have loads of tasks above the X-Axis (the horizontal line) then shuffle this line up slightly to more evenly distribute the tasks along the Y-axis (the vertical line).
Step 4: Re-write your To-Do list. Those in the High Value / Low Effort quadrant fall quite rightly into the category of “Why aren’t you doing this now?”. They’re easy, they’re going have a high impact. Crack on with these first and you’ll start seeing results faster. High Effort / Low Value quadrant: unlike the illustration above, I usually just rip up and chuck in the bin. Controversial, but we’ve got enough to be getting on with here. Those tasks that land in the high value, high effort quadrant should become second priority in your task list. You may also find that you need to carry out this task again on those tasks to break them down into more achievable, bite-size tasks. And finally, the ‘Friday Afternoon Quadrant’. This is stuff that you should do, but it’s not all that urgent. So, when you need a change of pace or you have a bit of time on your hands – pick one and tick it off your list.
I’m going to admit something super-embarrassing. I have a monthly “Board Meeting” with my fiancé. Translation: this is us sat with a cup of tea or a glass of wine over the kitchen table… But the reality is that by scheduling in that monthly session I have to be accountable for my KPIs, my income and my actions within my own business to someone other than just myself.
We’ve all been there when you’ve had a busy week and fancy just ignoring those expenses you need to update or the reporting on your social activity that isn’t the funnest of tasks (news flash – no-one likes pulling data into spreadsheets). By finding someone to be accountable to other than myself it forces me into committing to the actions I’ve determined for the coming month/s.
Apart from finding a way to ensure you are accountable for the actions you’ve agreed, you’ll soon realise your diary is your new best friend. Take the time to schedule in the following and you’ll start to reap the rewards in no time. P.S. These work in a traditional office setting too.
Weekly ‘Status Check’ – Put in max.30 mins each week to review upcoming, in-progress and overdue activity. If there’s a few of you, limit conversation to one person at a time. Go around the room and everyone gets a chance to speak. Importantly, this is not a moment to ask questions, but rather a chance to quickly update everyone on what you’re doing. I first started to use this meeting when I was working in retail as a chance for the marketing team and the graphic designers to update each other on the status of projects. Now, as a solo entrepreneur this looks like a quick check of my diary, a review of my To-Do list and a weekly email sent to my clients explaining the work I have on for them that coming week and a quick recap of what I completed the week before. It’s also a great chance for me to flag any deadlines Clients may need to drop into their own calendars and also any planned time out of the office.
Feedback / Review Session – Every couple of weeks drop in an hour to go over everything you’ve done so far. Perhaps carry out the ‘Stop, Start, Continue’ method again and see if there’s anything that urgently needs your attention.
This bi-weekly session is such a valuable tool if you’re working in a team as it allows everyone to give frequent feedback and to feel heard. Everyone from the intern through to the Director gets a chance to share their thoughts. If there’s something that someone is doing that drives you crazy, you get a chance to air that in a non-judgemental space and everyone has a chance to find an action to help resolve it. A real-life example that I resolved in this format was stopping meetings over lunchtime. I like my food and can’t concentrate when there’s a boardroom between me and my lunchbox. My team were able to easily agree to keep lunch breaks meeting free so those of us who wanted could work at our desks and I could escape and eat to my heart’s content.
Weekly Power Hour – keep an hour blocked out every week to carry out one of those tasks that you’ve just not got round or seem to never find the time to tackle. If you’ve done everything on your list (go you!) then you’ve got an hour blocked out to do research or teach yourself something new. No matter how busy you get, this hour stays in your diary so you keep chipping away at the things you need to do, even if you’re in back-to-back meetings all week.