I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone and in meetings with prospective customers and partners this week. As always, my goal is to help people automate as much of their business as possible, especially their cash flow.
Of course, even with an effective software tool and Virtual Assistants (or employees), it still takes time to develop effective systems. It seems that so many people are too busy running on the hamster wheel of life that they’re (sadly) too overwhelmed to see the bigger picture and then work on the tasks that will get them the life they want.
The ultimate decision to take action is up to you, but I have a simple strategy for constantly working towards your highest vision.
Too many hats
Motorola hired me right out of college. It was my only time in Corporate America and I had it pretty good. I was doing advanced statistical modeling for future satellite projects. I know that probably sounds terrifying to most of you, but I love numbers. Without the ability to measure and predict, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy watching the numbers on my bank statement go up every month.
At that time, Motorola was a very large company and, with any company of that size, you’re going to be stuck attending training seminars on the hot, new management strategies.
The one I never understood was: Six Thinking Hats.
To be honest, I couldn’t name a single Hat from that methodology. There are just too many!
Two hats in practice is better than 6 in the head
After building and running businesses for 15 years, I’ve narrowed it down to two hats: Visionary and Worker Bee.
When you’re wearing the Visionary hat, all you need is a quiet space and a notebook. I actually prefer paper and pen here. Studies have shown that physical act of writing is much better for “stream of consciousness” activities.
The Visionary has following goals:
a) Connect with your core purpose, vision and values
b) Fantasize about the future
c) Reflect on the present
d) Strategize how to get from c) to b)
Notice that I put Fantasize before Reflect. That was on purpose.
This practice is going to be uncomfortable for a lot of you. Most people don’t like being alone with their thoughts. You’ll likely think this is a waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
– Lao Tzu
Some of you may be surprised that I added Strategize here. This is based purely on my own experience, but I believe it’s the ultimate goal of the Visionary. Without strategy, how can I be sure I’m on the path to success? Luckily, if I’ve committed to the first three steps, shifting into strategy mode comes naturally.
I’ve found that the most effective way to be productive when you’re “producing,” is to not have to think about anything other than the task. As Mark Allen says, you need to trust the system. If you start second-guessing your reasons for doing the work, or allow yourself to be distracted, your productivity is going to plummet. In this state I need to be a mindless drone that’s purely focused on the task at hand.
Putting the hats to use
The most important part, that so many people miss, is that you have to be 100% devoted to the following three principles:
- Adhere to specific times, every day, to wear each hat.
- Keep the hat on until you achieve a flow state.
- Never confuse or try to overlap the two (the one that everyone screws up).
“Consistency is key”
I have that phrase permanently burned into my mind because it’s on one of the marital arts training videos I work out with several times a week (sadly, shortly after getting my 3rd degree black belt, my martial arts school went out of business; now I’m stuck working out at home).
When my friend and mentor, Eugene Burger, teaches the concept of practice to magicians, he always stresses that, “30 minutes a day is better than 4 hours on Sunday.”
I’ll up the ante by suggesting that you should set aside specific times each day for these. For most people, the best time to wear the Visionary hat is either first-thing in the morning or in the evening (it can be both, as it is for me). Observe your energy levels for a few days and pick the time in which you’re naturally reflective and unburdened by daily stresses.
Once you’ve donned a hat, you should keep it on until you achieve a state of flow. The rest of the world drops away and your entire being is focused on the task at hand. It’s in this state that you will do your best work.
Separate the subtle from the gross
[from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus]
Ever have those days when you “worked” all day and felt like you accomplished nothing? You answered phones and email. You did some work that you knew needed to be done. Yet none of it seemed to matter.
These days are always caused by acting on impulse. That means one of two things:
- You were trying to determine the best thing to work on while wearing the Worker Bee hat instead of the Visionary.
- You allowed yourself to be distracted by external influences.
If you follow the above strategy, the first will no longer be a problem. You strategize and plan your actions when you’re wearing the Visionary hat. Then you just blindly work through them while wearing the Worker Bee hat (again: trust the system).
Here’s one that might “blow your funky mind” (a line borrowed from my friend Mac King):
Distractions are caused by a failure to strategize.
We’re back to the importance of wearing that Visionary hat again.
Here’s the simple, sure-fire, three-step cure to avoid interruptions:
- Every time you get distracted, make a note of it.
- The next time you put on the Visionary hat, make that distraction your focus (be sure to get to the strategy step).
- The next time you put on your Worker Bee hat, implement a process to deal with that type of interruption.
Step 3 could take many forms. Here are some examples, many from other Productivity Wisdom Filters:
- Only check email at specific times of the day (and limit your time on email)
- Ditto for social media
- Hire a virtual assistant
- Learn to love voicemail
- Close your office door before you head into a flow state
- Make your schedule known publicly; train your employees and clients when is the best time to contact you (trust me, they’ll actually thank you)