The fulcrum and the lever: use these tools to move your goals, not your to-dos

I hope you found last week’s conversation about legal blitzkrieg email trailers useful. But maybe you can reword them to get the liability limitation you want and still make a connection with the recipients. Really, it’s worth a try.

On to this week. Archimedes famously said: Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. With all of the tasks that make up our daily lives, it’s the lever that does the heavy lifting, but it’s the fulcrum that permits the effort. Question: Where’s your fulcrum?

And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!

Audience participation question: I get most of my new work from social networking, LinkedIn in particular. What would you want to know more about using social media to expand your practice?

As a holiday gift to me, it would be much appreciated if you could take the time to email me with just one thought. (To those who have already responded – Thank You!)

Goal Setting

Well, it’s almost December 31 and many blogs and newsletters are turning out their end of year missives on goal setting for 2016. I think we all need this kind of prompting, prodding, and poking about goals. Why? Because often times we lose sight of the big picture and we get bogged down in the everyday stuff. It’s the whole forest and the trees thing.

I’m going to assume you’ll read a sprinkling of some of those blogs and newsletters, so I won’t be writing about goal setting here. Instead, my intention is to talk about something that will help you better achieve those goals that you do set.

Goal Achieving

Setting goals is a waste of time if you don’t put yourself in the position to achieve them. That’s where effectiveness and efficiency come into play … do you know the difference?

Sometimes all you know is that you’re flat out busy. Who has time to think! But if you dwell on how you spend your time, it can make a huge difference in what you accomplish.

Effectiveness is doing tasks that get you closer to your goals [what you do].

Efficiency is performing a given task in an economical manner [how you do it].

Achieving goals happens when you focus on effectiveness (where you place the fulcrum). That’s because efficiency (how you use the lever) is task-agnostic: you can be efficient about completing urgent to-do’s … but that won’t likely help you reach important goals.

(If the emphasis on “important” and “urgent” sounds familiar, think of the quadrants in Stephen Covey’s time management matrix.)

The Problem

Face it, you’ve all had days (most days?) in which you were incredibly “productive,” but the effort focused on your urgent everyday to-dos rather than on your important yearly goals. Why does that happen?

For some of us it might be procrastination – because we’re not sure about the goals we set. And so we need conviction.

For some of us, it might be uncertainty – because we’re not sure what goal-related tasks we need to do. And so we need clarity.

For some of us, it might be fear – because we’re not sure how to best perform those tasks. And so we need bravery.

As a result of procrastination, uncertainty, and fear, it’s easier to focus on the mindless to-dos, feel some semblance of productivity, and be able to tell others we’re busy.

A Solution

So you have the fulcrum and the lever. If you want to achieve them we need to place our fulcrum under our goals, not our to-dos.

For all but the most successful people, being efficient without regard to being effective is the default mode of the universe. So when in doubt about what to do, sacrifice efficiency for effectiveness.

You could also delegate some of those to-dos, especially the personal ones. Before we adopted our RV life, Amy and I hired a “gal Friday.” She kept our books, paid our bills, cleaned our house, fetched our groceries, did our laundry, and scheduled our appointments. It freed up a lot of our time and reduced most of our stress.

Action Plan

I don’t think I need to say much more. So …

  • Plan for 2016 with conviction, clarity, and bravery.
  • Write down your goals (unwritten goals are just a wish list).
  • Devote time every day to tasks that move you closer to your goals.
  • Minimize the busyness you get sucked into with your to-do lists.
  • Always choose effectiveness over efficiency so you can reach your goals.

Thank You

This is my last post of 2015. I know time is our most precious commodity, and so I appreciate that you choose to spend some of yours reading these dispatches.





Action Items:

If you like what I write about, tell a colleague.

If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.

If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you want a sense of how well your practice is working for you, take this Practice Self Assessment.

Is self-employment a risk-reduction strategy?

I hope you enjoyed last week’s conversation about re-booting your practice. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to work with what you have rather than invest the time and effort into starting over. But is that your long-term solution?

On to this week. I get a ton of questions asking what it’s like to be a sole practitioner. Couple that with the fact that our profession requires us to always assess risk. So, is it less risky to be practicing solo or to be part of a firm? Here’s my take, which focuses on one factor – your skills.

And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!

Recently, I listened to a podcast interview with Daniel Pink. Among his many credits (aid to Labor Secretary Robert Reich, speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, five times New York Times best-selling author), Pink wrote the iconical “Free Agent Nation” article that appeared in the January 1998 issue of Fast Company. His article was teed up for success by Tom Peter’s article, “A Brand Called You,” which appeared five months earlier in the same magazine.

With the rise concurrent of the Internet, one could argue these two articles really set off the trend in self-employment. I mean, for those who remember, being self-employed before that time was often code for “recently laid off or fired – and looking for a job.”

But what Pink’s interview makes abundantly clear is that, today, self-employment is mostly a privilege for the talented.

Meaning, do we have skills (BVFLS or otherwise) that are in demand? Talents that are valued by our marketplace? If yes, we have a choice about being a W-2 employee or a 1099 free agent. If no, we don’t. It’s that simple. Here’s why.

If we have valuable skills, why would we want to attach our fortunes to an employer when we could spread our risk among multiple clients and customers? Yes, we’re out there … on our own. But with our in-demand skills, we have the talent and drive to be successful.

If we don’t have valuable skills … we’re in a world of hurt. There is no W-2/1099 choice. We’ll need to stay W-2 employees to mitigate the risk that we likely wouldn’t survive (long) as a free agent. We’ll need a company to take care of us for as long it’s willing. Or able.

Here is an acid test to assess our skills. How confident are we – REALLY – in our talents? Do we – REALLY – have the discipline for life-long learning? Then, long-term, who do we – REALLY – want to shoulder the risk of our work (gainful employment) and life (retirement plans) … ourselves or an employer?

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing 20+ professionals in my Practicing Solo column for NACVA’s The Value Examiner. For what it’s worth, most felt that their only regret about going solo was not doing it sooner. Certainly, something to think about.

So what

We love to talk about risk – risk management, risk-adjusted returns, holding period risk, risk this, risk that. But it’s always in the context of someone else’s risk … the risk belonging to that ephemeral “subject company” or “subject interest.” What about in the context of our own personal risk?

In real life

I think the lesson here is to be motivated to continually “sharpen the saw,” as Stephen Covey said. It’s a call to action to make sure we always have skills that are in demand whether we’re solos now or want to be prepared for that possibility in the future … just in case.





Action Items:

If you like what I write about, tell a colleague.

If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.

If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you want a sense of how well your practice is working for you, take this Practice Self Assessment.