If you were to send yourself a postcard from your desired future, what would it say?
Imagine yourself and your business in 3 or 4 years time…. What work would you be doing? How would you feel about it? What kind of clients would you be working with? How many days a week would you be working? What other things apart from work would you enjoy doing?
One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is: begin with the end in mind. He describes it as follows:
“[It is] based on imagination – the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint…..
Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.”
What’s most interesting for me about this habit is that it’s about creating your own future rather than letting others do it for you, or letting things happen by chance. How often have we thought: this isn’t where I envisaged I’d be at this point. It’s definitely happened to me!
Set out your vision
You’re painting a picture of your destination. Unlike your holiday location, it doesn’t yet exist; it’s up to you. It’s made up of various parts, including:
- Work: what kind of work energises you and gets you out of bed in the morning? What kind of clients do you enjoy working with? What kind of employer do you want to be and what are your values?
- Personal life: what’s your ideal day? Month? How would you most like to spend your life when you’re not working?
Don’t forget to make it visible. Pictures on a vision board work well for some people. Or words, writ large on your office wall in front of you perhaps?
Paint a picture of your ideal customer
These are the type of customers what bring you your ideal work. Spend some time thinking about this in more detail, because it’s so important in the work context. Consider for example:
- Organisation level: Size, number of employees, income, kind of products/services they offer, problems they have that you can solve, geography.
- Individual: attitude, approach, values, job role, personal preferences.
Get as specific as you can. Then ask these questions. Will they buy what you sell? Do they have the problems you want to solve? Which individuals and business in which sector best fit with what you’re selling?
Do the right kind of work
Bryony Thomas, author and founder of Watertight Marketing calls this, if you don’t have it, one of the foundation leaks to your business. Not doing the right kind of work is dispiriting and ennervating. Read more about this topic in this great blog about the energising nature of doing the right kind of work for the right clients which sums it up perfectly.
As Bryony mentions in her book, work should give you two things:
- Pride and
Just doing work for profit alone doesn’t make for energising work in the long run (unless you’re only motivated by money and don’t care much about delivering value to your customers). And whilst only doing work that makes you proud might make you feel good, it doesn’t pay the bills! So it’s finding the combination of the two that’s most powerful.
The right work combines three things: a business opportunity, your particular knowledge or expertise and, crucially, your desire or motivation to do the work. Each of these elements is important. Without the business opportunity, you won’t make the money, you need to focus on the area you know best and without being motivated you won’t be doing the best job you can for your clients.
Keeping all of this front of mind
It’s easy in the busy-ness of life and work not to keep your vision, ideal customer and right kind of work front of mind. The offer of some work comes in which will give you some good income, but it’s not for a business you’d consider ideal. Or you’re so busy completing a project that you’re working 12 hour days and have little time to spend with your family.
These are the things that so quickly start blurring that future vision and make it seem further away than ever.
So how can you keep yourself and your business on track? Some tangible examples of things that have worked in my business or for clients:
- Regular meetings with your fellow directors or team managers to hold each other to accountable
- Have post-it note on your computer which says: Is what I’m doing today helping me to reach my vision and goals? And if you find yourself doing too much that isn’t, stop it and make sure the vast majority of your time is spent focusing on the things that will get you there. (This is from a story of a CEO who did just this).
- Make yourself a vision board and stick it up on your wall. Look at it every day.
- Translate this into milestones and break these down into annual, quarterly, even monthly actions so you can tell sooner rather than later whether you’re broadly on track.
- Take time out regularly – at least quarterly – to review progress. What’s going well, what isn’t. How can you change this. What does it mean for what your need to focus on this week, this month?
- Pay for a coach, or organise one from your own staff, to support you in achieving your goals
In order for that postcard from the future to excite you: firstly, set out your vision for that destination; then build up a picture for both who you want to work with and what work will motivate you. And finally, put in place things that will keep you on track.
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