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With all the festivities, food, and excesses, many of us have enjoyed a well-earned break from work this Christmas. But, as we finish the last of the mince pies and left-over Christmas dinner, our mind begins to drift to looking ahead to 2019 and to setting goals for the year ahead.

Many of us use New Year to try and reset few new habits, but if we are really honest with ourselves, we have been here before. Remember last year? I think we started with great intentions, then…by the 15th January, we were back to our old habits.

We are all human, habits die hard. Here are a few things that you can implement in the first week, to make major changes to your operations. These WILL improve your chances of implementing structural changes that will survive beyond 15th January and help you get some much-needed time back.

Here are just a few highly effective changes you can make in the first 5 days back at work which will have positive, long-term effects, guaranteed to survive past the end of January!

Now you might shake your head and think I can’t do that. I get that. But don’t think about the obstacles, think about the possibilities. Remember change only happens through action.

“The path to success is to take massive, determined actions.” – Tony Robbins

A Routine

A trait of the most successful and effective entrepreneurs is routine. Whether it is a disciplined morning routine, regular exercise, diet or effective time management, all attribute their success to some sort of routine. This is as a result of the knowledge that the better resourced you are as a person, the more you can give to your work.

In Tim Ferris’s book, Tribe of Mentors, he asks over 100 successful individuals ‘What routine sets you up for success?’. The majority cited mindfulness exercises first thing in the morning before using any devices. This is a hugely beneficial exercise, helping them relax, reflect, and focus on the important things of the day before starting work.

Additionally, never underestimate the power of incorporating much needed ‘down time’ into your daily routine. We are so busy scheduling every hour of every day with work, but never blocking out time for a break. I have a recurring one-hour calendar entry every afternoon titled ‘Walk the dog’. I ‘put down tools’, get some fresh air, leave my phone behind, and reflect on my day. This is often my most valuable hour! Just like athletes, rest is as crucial as working. Poor rest means poor performance. As business owners we are the same. Have you ever had an amazing idea about your business whilst on holiday? Or found a creative solution to a tricky problem, whilst you were out walking the dog? Then you know what I am talking about. Making sure you are well rested, healthy and mentally relaxed in preparation for work is vital. Give this a try, believe me you will feel the benefit.

“Take rest. A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” – Ovid

Sort out those Emails

There are many great apps out there to help you deal with the torrent of emails many of us receive daily. But, in the age of ‘there’s an App for that’ I think we negate to actually look at the cause. What culture and behaviours drive these numbers and types of emails? What procedures and policies do you have in place to reduce the amount of unnecessary email traffic you receive in the first place?

An interesting exercise is to monitor your email, texts, and calls for a few days. How many of them were truly necessary? How many would come under the category of: ‘just letting you know’? Or ‘I was worried in case something went wrong – so I cc’d you in so I didn’t have to take responsibility if TSHTF’?

If this number is high, you have a cultural issue that need to be addressed. Think about discussing communication with your team, and work together to outline the methods and policies for communication to reduce the volume of calls, texts and emails in your business. Do you allow your team enough autonomy to make decisions? What about scheduling weekly meetings to get focused updates? Do you have software such as Asana for tracking tasks, removing the need for being cc’d into every email to ‘keep you in the loop’? A great podcast to listen to is Guy Raz podcast with Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, a business built on the knowledge that Yvon would be absent for at least 5 months of the year. We can all learn from the culture Yvon has built, I urge you to listen to this inspirational podcast.

As with any change, it can take a bit of work to agree and enforce in the beginning (usually with a lot of ‘throwing the ball back in their court’) but with commitment and bucket-loads of self-discipline from you, change can happen. The long-term benefits are transformational for you and your business.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” – Charles Buxton

A Virtual Assistant (VA)

Hiring a VA can free up an amazing amount of your time. But how could you incorporate working with one?

The first thing is to begin categorising your tasks. Think about all the things you do in a week – how many of those could be taught to someone in under an hour and would result in your never having to do them again? These are the jobs you should be outsourcing.

Many people use VAs for just these types of tasks. For this system to work effectively, you have to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each these tasks to ensure they are executed correctly. But, once these are created and your VA is working well, you will be able to focus on the big picture tasks, those goal-orientated activities only you can do working in your ‘Zone of Genius’

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker

Mobile Data

I found this vital when I was running my business remotely – and now it is invaluable. A generous data limit will give you freedom to work away from the office and to begin incorporating short breaks whilst still being contactable (only in the event of an emergency of course, now that you have your new communication policy in place!).

I know many people promote the idea of business owners being away from the office on holiday and being non-contactable. But I would argue to start with incorporating short ‘days out’ and long weekends to help adjust to being away from the office more often. A great ‘resolution’ for 2019 is having every other Friday away from the office. No work. No meetings. No calls. You can be contacted on the phone, but only for true emergencies.

Now this will be tough in the beginning, but as I mentioned earlier, this time away from the office will have multiple benefits: you begin to realise that chaos does not erupt the minute you leave the office and you become more comfortable being away. You will have the space to review the week, enjoy your hobbies, rest and recharge. I guarantee you will do some of your most productive creative problem solving on these ‘days off’ and you, your family, staff and business will all benefit.

Additionally, your staff will adapt to your absence and start enjoying autonomy and begin to trust their decisions without running it past you all the time. I wrote an article on this very topic in the ‘Ant Nest Principle’, well worth a read. This is a real Win/Win all round.

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” – Alvin Toffler

A Business Retreat

I know many of us are such perpetually active individuals that we forget to just STOP, take stock of where we are and refocus on our goals. Many of us have a partial realisation during Christmas time – but quickly forget once we are back at our desks.

Breaks away from work enable relaxation. With relaxation comes reflection. We realise just how tired we are, so caught up in the day to day tasks, that we have actually lost sight of the goal and are (yet again) heading for burnout.

That’s why I like to schedule in personal commitments, regular seminars, conferences, breaks and retreats in my diary early in the year. This enables me to pre-empt my hardwired tendency to perpetual action, break the routine every so often and ensure I take time out to reflect and refocus.

We all have attended conferences and seminars compiling a list of great initiatives, know their benefits but be frustrated at never being able to ‘find the time’ to implement them. I know many of us struggle with this and that is what has inspired my Gen-i Implementor in March 2019.

“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” ―Arnold Glasow

The Implementor is a retreat with a difference; we ensure the implementation phase happens AT the retreat, not afterwards. I teach the tricks and tools that will enable you to leave on the last day with not only a set of clear objectives but actually have the implementation broken down ready for execution.

This unique retreat is hosted in a luxurious Edwardian Manor house in the beautiful Lake District. Relaxed scheduling combined with life changing workshops, incredible dining experiences and amazing hospitality, will ensure you rest, reassess, and refocus.

Our March Gen-i Implementor is limited to a select group of 18 committed business owners. Want to join us? For more information please visit www.gen-i.co.uk.