I swear ten seconds ago it was New Year’s Eve. A night of pizza and beer, hopes and dreams. Just like the other 7 billion people on earth, 2017 was going to be my best year yet. Then I glanced at my computer, answered a couple of emails, looked up, and it’s December already.
Usually, at this time of year in between singing along with Celine Dion and gorging on candy canes, we stop and trace our minds back to those overzealous New Year’s resolutions we dreamt up on a whim and made extra ambitious with our tequila hangover.
Usually it’s at this time of year that I either look back and think, ‘Ahhh it was a shitty resolution anyway’, or, if the year hasn’t quite trodden me into the ground completely, I make it my mission to tick off all 70 resolutions in the next 30 days in a mad dash to prove to myself that I am in fact a green-smoothie drinking, eye-cream wearing, go-to-the-gym-5-days-a-week, no parking fine kinda gal. The latter usually falls flat on its face by December 4th.
New Year’s resolutions are funny things, aren’t they? Full of hopes, dreams and usually a good lashing of guilt when the time comes around for the yearly audit. I made a New Year’s resolution a few moons ago to make New Year’s ‘themes’ rather than resolutions. This approach is all about coming up with a single word rather than a list longer than the Wall of China of things that I may or may not actually achieve. Much, much easier to implement throughout the year.
My theme for this year was ‘Intentional’.
For both myself personally and for our humming little studio, we set out to be intentional with our time, with our work, with our relationships and with ourselves. 2017 was going to be the year of slowing down and doing things properly, mindfully, wholeheartedly and intentionally. We weren’t going to rush through our task list and look back at each day in a dizzy blur and cool sweat breaking across our foreheads.
Why did we decide on this word you might ask? Well, because 2016 was quite the opposite of intentional. Last year was a mad flurry of ideas, a machine gun blast of anything and everything, a hurricane of action, and a scramble to the finish line with no real strategy in place. In one meeting, myself and my marketing manager actually thought it would be a great idea to give away fireworks as a prize for our 700th marketing campaign for the month of May. I mean, fireworks? Really? They aren’t even legal in our state for god’s sake.
So in the spirit of doing things intentionally and sticking by our resolution of not giving away fireworks, here’s what 2017 has taught us.
- IT PAYS TO DOUBLE DOWN YOUR FOCUS.
What does being intentional mean for your business? It means doubling down on the things you’re good at and culling the rest. We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule, but how many of us have actually implemented it? This year, we tried our darndest to not get distracted by the lure to do absolutely everything and race in every lane. We doubled down on what we’re good at and saw first hand how quickly this benefits your bottom line.Do you ever walk through the business class section of an airplane and think, “Who are these schmucks?” Let me tell you, these people are the folks that make up to 50% of an airline’s total annual revenue. 50%! That is huge, particularly when there’s probably a total of about ten seats up there compared to the eleventy billion seats packed together like sardines in peasantville economy. But isn’t that telling? An airline makes 50% of its revenue from such a small portion of its seats.Do yourself a favour and find out where the majority of your business comes from, and focus on growing that. Your P&L will thank you.
- BEING BUSY DISTRACTS US FROM THE WORK THAT MATTERS.
The irony of running a business is that often there’s so much to do that nothing gets done. We move frantically from task to task, spinning without traction. We jump from email to email, provide questions to answers and spend our 9-5 putting out fires and making sure everyone’s still alive. Being intentional means not getting sucked into the vortex of the everyday task list and/or inbox. And it’s really freaking hard!! Because here’s the thing, doing work that really matters is actually so much harder. It requires more focus, more effort and more brain space. The desire to escape from meaningful work into a spiral of quick wins and mundane to-dos is just too alluring. But let me tell you, your business is not going to grow in the way that you wish or provide the lifestyle that you wish by spending each day answering emails. You need to carve out space and time to work on the big picture and drive that baby home.
- IT’S A GAME OF CONSTANT REFINEMENT.
In his book Anything You Want, Derek Sivers absolutely nails it – he says, “People tend to think a revolution needs to involve loud provocations, fists in the air, and bloodshed. But if you think true love looks like Romeo and Juliet, you’ll overlook a great relationship that grows slowly. If you think your life’s purpose needs to hit you like a lightning bolt, you’ll overlook the little day-to-day things that fascinate you. If you think revolution needs to feel like war, you’ll overlook the importance of simply serving people better.”Being intentional means looking at all the little pieces of your business and constantly adjusting and tweaking them to better suit your long game goal. It doesn’t mean hitting pause on everything and throwing your entire system out the window. It means constantly keeping your eyes and mind open to better ways of doing things and forever striving for improvement in all aspects.
- WHEN WE REST WE EMERGE STRONGER.
Disclaimer; when it comes to this topic, I’m still very much wearing L-Plates!When your brain is constantly in go-go-go mode, it stops looking for creative solutions and starts looking for the quickest solution. Having the headspace to think about what you want isn’t indulgent — it’s imperative. Sometimes the things that make the most business sense, aren’t about business at all. They’re about what fills you up and gets you excited. Like deep-down, butterflies in the belly excited.There’s a method of long-distance running that’s growing in popularity amongst marathon runners called the run-walk method. Every few minutes of running is followed by a minute of walking. Runners using this method of racing are outperforming those who are purely running the entire distance. I reckon we can apply the run-walk method to our business lives. Slowing down, even for a few minutes here and there, even in the middle of a race, enables us to run faster and with better form.These days I divide my working days up into 3 hour blocks. I get up at 6am, make a chai and work for a solid 3 hours. Then, I take a break to walk my dog, have some breakie and grab a coffee. Then I go back to my desk for another 3 hour chunk. Sometimes, in the evening, when I’m in crunch mode or feeling super inspired, I’ll sit back down and chow through some more tasks. But ultimately, working in these 3 hour chunks means that I am superman focused and give my brain the rest it needs to not finish the end of the day in a frazzled mess.
- MINDFULNESS IS IN THE MOMENT
Instead of salivating when you hear the beep of a new text message, or fritzing out each time a new emails lands in your inbox, try to take these moments as a signal for pause. When your phone rings, take a moment to breathe before answering it. When you go to start the engine of your car, check in with your heart rate. When you’re waiting in line for the ATM, instead of wishing the person in front of you would hurry up and shooting metaphorical darts into the back of their head, just stand in silence and face your face to the sky. Take in your surrounds and use these moments to create space and pause in your day. You’ll find that taking stock and connecting back in throughout your day will allow you to flow through life with more focus and more purpose.
- IT’S IMPORTANT TO AIM BEFORE YOU FIRE.
So often we scramble to get a lot accomplished in a day, and succeed – only to look back on what we achieved and realise that these things won’t actually get us to where we want to go anyways. It’s not a lack of effort, it’s a lack of direction and focus.Here’s the thing, when you start a business you create the rules and you write your own job description. So if you’re wondering why you’re not moving in the direction you’d like to, check in with yourself; are you actually doing the work that you want to do? We all, (including my workaholic self), need to take a good, hard look at ourselves and ask, ‘Am I working because I want to? Am I working because I’m being productive? Or am I just working on these tasks because they just so happened to land on my desk?’ Make sure that each morning, you aim before you fire. Otherwise you’re just convincing yourself that you’re busy, but in reality, you’re only moving in circles, rather than progressing forwards.
- SAYING NO IS USUALLY A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
The most successful brands in the world say no more than they say yes (with the exception of Optus, who would give Jim Carey a run for his money in the film Yes Man). My late best friend, Steve Jobs was as proud of what Apple chose not to do as he was of what Apple did. When he returned to Apple in 1997, he took a company with 350 products and reduced them to 10 products in a two-year period. Why? So he could put the “A-Team” on each product.To be intentional, we must learn to master the art of saying no.
Building a business takes more than elbow grease. It takes more than smarts. And it takes more than experience. Building a business requires grit and grace, passion and perseverance, resolve and resilience. And more than that, it requires you to fail fast, learn on the fly and grow in ways you never even knew you could. If you need a little help getting started, really want to hit the ground running in 2018 or need a good poolside read for the holidays, check out our new ebook.