I love this time of year. It represents for me not only the chance to focus on those things that matter most, like family and friends, but also gives me the chance to reflect on the year that has now come and gone as well as look at the year ahead.
For many this is the end to what has been a busy season. For others, this is the start of their season, filled with hope and optimism.
One of the things I like to do most during these weeks between now and the first week of January is look at how this year panned out. Not only in terms of what really happened, but what didn’t happen. Although this is often one of the most painful parts of the exercise, it can also be one of the most fruitful.
Let’s face it. It is mid-November, and for all intents and purposes the year is over except for the turkey and the tree. The list of “I am totally going to get to that” will now have to roll over from 2015 to 2016. If you are anything like me, you will probably hate that some of the things on that list are still not done. Things that you, like me, probably had thought to get done when you did this same thing last year.
These lists of things that haunt us as we move along our days can be our greatest strengths or our biggest weaknesses. We have a tendency to let them ride around in the back of our minds getting pushed further and further back by the pressing matters of the day. Then, probably only once or twice a year, we dust them off and think about them once again.
I have a clear 5 step process that I use this time of year to help me as I try to make sense of another year gone by and a list of unreached objectives.
First: Be nice to yourself… but not too nice. If you are anything like the vast majority of the operators that I have had the privilege of working with in this industry, your list may not have made the progress that you wanted. This, however, was in all likelihood, not because you were sitting by a pool somewhere sipping Mai-Tais. It is probably because you were crazy busy just keeping the company moving along. Now, while I certainly understand this, I also know that this can be a crutch, something we simply use as a reason why we didn’t get where we wanted to go. Try to be honest with yourself. If you were indeed crazy busy, great. Good job getting done what you did. But, after careful self-evaluation, if you have some work to do here, do it.
Second: Don’t be afraid to toss things off the list. Just because it has been on your list for a long time and still has not been done, doesn’t mean that it has to stick around. I like to evaluate my lists with a few questions. Will this make my job easier? Will this make me more money? Is this realistic? If I can’t answer a resounding YES to at least 2 of these questions, I take it off my list.
Third: Don’t forget the three O’s of getting stuff done. Outsource. Outsource. Outsource. Ask yourself if you can give any of these items to someone else? Never… ever… underestimate the power of outsourcing. Whether it is to your own company, or to an outside company, the power of accomplishing something without having to give it your own time can be a powerful way to move those pesky stuck objectives forward.
Fourth: Do you really want to do this? You may think that this should be up higher on the list, but it is fourth for a good reason. It has been said that many businesses fail because the people driving the ship do what they want to do, not what they should be doing. If there is something that is riding your list that you simply don’t want to do, but you just can’t bring yourself to take it off, go back to number 3.
Fifth. Decide. Lists are a great thing. In my sales development courses, I challenge all of my students to take a few minutes each and every day to plan their days, weeks, and months. I believe in lists, I use them extensively in my business and in my personal life. But I have also found that there is one universal truth when it comes to lists. The fact that you wrote it down does not mean it will get done. You have to decide that your list is not just some piece of paper but rather a commitment to yourself and to your company. You must decide if there is something worthy of making the list, then by its very existence, it is also worthy of your time and effort. You have to decide you will no longer allow lists to pile up and be forgotten.
I believe that one of the most difficult things in this business is the challenge of simply being in business. The level of activity and chaos in the motorcoach industry is extraordinary. The number of moving parts in the day to day operation of a motorcoach company makes other businesses look well… downright simple. I also believe that it is critical that we take control of our businesses, that we decide that these important lists of things will indeed make our jobs easier, help make us more money, and are indeed realistic will get done.
For the last few years, I have had the privilege of talking to many operators at events where I see them at the same time each year. I have seen those that have made changes and met their objectives and I have met those who have year after year said the same thing “This year we are going to….” Year after year the same objectives, the same list.
If we are constantly waiting to move our objectives forward for that one moment on that one day when everything is going perfectly, where we finally sit at our cleared desk and our phone doesn’t ring, when there are no emails to answer, where all the drivers showed up and the equipment is all working perfectly, where all the clients are happy and the employees are working perfectly… we will probably find these lists will never get done. Chances are if you are anything like me, there will be no perfect time, no magic moment when there is just nothing else to do.
Getting things done is a choice. One I hope you and I can both make as we look at how to move our businesses and this great industry into a brighter tomorrow.