Advanced Technique: A Simple Calendar Hack To Thrive In COVID Times

author
By Alexa Ward

What's On My Mind

Taking things up a notch from last week.

Got a lot of good feedback on last week's MDD article!

​The bottom line: in this back-to-back Zoom world, we need to schedule "get work done" time in our calendars.

​I've learned this isn't random. There's a process that works, and I outlined it last week HERE.

​So what do you do once you have this licked?

​If you want to become even more strategic?

Plan time for your priorities.

I find it's best to plan priorities in Annual and Quarterly timeframes.

​Annually, I pop up a few levels to take a strategic perspective, rolling work and personal, into one view.

​It's a brutally honest assessment and always provides insights.

​​HERE's last year's review, along with the goals I set for myself for the year.

​Each year is different, and no matter what, I always find something fresh and new to focus on.

It's energizing.

​What falls out of the annual plan?

Quarterly projects.

I spend the bulk of my time doing the routine things: delivery, business development, content creation, etc.

​But I try to dedicate 25 to 50 hours a quarter getting better.

This is a 2 to 4 hour a week investment in BIG and myself.

​This is the hardest time to get.

And the most important.

I'll share how to get it below.

​You've guessed it–there's a process!

What's Coming Up

I'm toying with an idea for Season Four of the podcast, which would likely debut this summer.

I'm thinking of answering the top 50 or 100 BD questions I get in super snappy, 3-minute episodes published daily.

So please help me with this...

What topics would you want me to cover?

Hit reply and let me know.

What's We Just Created

That said, we're still cranking out killer content in Season Three where I interview my favorite rainmakers!

​This week we had Tyler Sweatt.

​I met Tyler when he was a senior consulting at Toffler Associates, and he's now VP of Growth at Second Front, a company that governmental agencies use to acquire cutting-edge technology faster. (What a cool niche!)

​Tyler's one of the best rainmakers I've ever worked with.

​If there was an algorithm rating rainmakers on effectiveness and fun, Tyler would be tops!

​Check out THIS episode to hear us talk about creating a client-centric buying process.

Check out THIS one to hear us creating efficiency in the buying process: planning for meetings, asking for the advance, qualifying and more.

​Check out THIS one to hear us talking about being brutally honest with clients in a way they'll appreciate and enjoy and...how to say No in a way that works.

​These are all ten or so minutes long.

​Short and sweet.

​Intellectually insightful.

​And tons of fun!

What's Worth Lingering On

So how can you take your BD game to the next level?

​Improve your efficiency?

​Get more meetings with who you want?

Create demand?

Deepen relationships?

​Close and make the positive client impact you want?

​First, recognize it takes time to make step changes. Yeah, doing the same things will get you the same results. I know it's cliche, but also true. You have to invest in yourself and your team to sprint forward.

Slow down to speed up.

​Think of orders of magnitude improvements.

​Investing in big ideas will get you 10x!

​Here are some examples we've done the last few years:

  • Creating several free, super valuable digital courses people can sign up for and take online: selecting our tech platform, learning how to build these, so they're valuable, building downloadable tools to make implementation easy, etc.​
    Examples: HERE are all our free courses in one handy place. HERE is an example of a downloadable tool we built for the BD Habits course.​
    Once these digital assets are up and running, they just sit out there, working for you forever!​​
  • Investing the up-front work it took to stand up our podcast: selecting partners after identifying and interviewing nearly ten, buying and installing the technology, designing the format, etc. And...for me, learning how to be a decent host. I read tons about it but didn't feel I was decent for about a year.​
    Example: HERE are the 20+ platforms you can now get our podcast. We doubled in downloads just last month! The momentum is really building after 1.5 years of investment. Hard in the beginning, fun in the end.​
    Once this was started, running it is routine. Massive ROI per unit of time invested! ​​
  • Building scalable Give-to-Gets: for us, this is our public GrowBIG training, where we can offer senior leaders a seat at no cost so they can audit our marquee training.​
    For you, scalable Give-to-Gets might be an up-front assessment, design session, benchmarking analysis, process evaluation or something else. The key: some up front value that's 10x more valuable than "a conversation" with a potential client.​
    (Side note: HERE is an oldie but goodie video we created back in 2017 on designing great Give To Gets. Worth a watch or rewatch from in Learning Library!)​
    The key is to have something built you can leverage over and over to offer a Give To Get that gives 10x the value for each increment of time you invest.

These are simple examples of one-time projects you might tackle in a quarter.

​Important: Sometimes, your best conversations around priorities will come as a team, so feel free to forward this note along with your color to your folks to give them background. Then you can schedule a meeting to decide on your quarterly priorities. That's a simple and energizing next step!​

Next topic: the priority of setting priorities.

You still have to run the business. Investing this time to get step changes is hard.

​But I'd argue...

It's a lot harder not to invest it!

Let's put it this way.

​Every hour you spend making step-change investments in your efficiency is an investment in your future self.

Hard now, easy later.

Isn't that better than...

Easy now, hard later?

​So, guess what, long-time reader?

​Can you guess what's coming next?

Maybe...

​A practical three-step process you can put in place right away?

​Bingo! Yahtzee! First-round draw of the Chihuahuan Raven card in Wingspan!

​Here you go. Three steps to success:

  1. Pick your projects.​
    Pick three projects you want to focus on this quarter. Or heck, just start with one big one you think will make a big difference.
    Example: one of my annual strategies this year is investing in our team, so I'm currently focusing on making our internal training processes even better. (I love our amazing team!)
  2. Identify how much time each might take, this quarter.
    You might not get "done" this quarter. That's OK. Define an outcome you can reasonably get to at the end of the quarter.​
    Then estimate how much time you'll need to do this yourself or lead your team to do it.
    An estimate is fine.
    (Note: this is the step I hadn't done before Cyril set me straight–it's brilliant.)
    Important: don't worry about perfect accuracy here. Getting +/- 20% around the actual time you'll need is good enough, and it's a whole lot better than not estimating at all.
  3. Block off time on your calendar incrementally each week to reserve this time.
    This is your genius move. Again, wisdom I got from Cyril: the more specific you'll make the calendar entry, the less likely this will get overwritten with doing the business. 
    Examples:​
    "Work on scalable Give-to-Get" has a high likelihood of getting overwritten with urgent work.​
    Instead, create a calendar entry like...
    "Create a table of contents for our new benchmarking Give-to-Get so Janie can mock up the entire design"​
    This has a much higher chance of getting done. Janie needs you!

​I've been doing this process for years, but Cyril helped me tighten the screws, making it even more successful.

For me, the tweaks were estimating the time required and getting more specific in calendaring at the beginning of the quarter instead of "fitting in what I could each week," which I did before.

​It's funny how there's always another level to go to. So cool.
So back to you.

​What are the step-change investments you want to make in your processes?

How can you increase your and the team's efficiency?

​How can you enhance your own and your team's skills?

  1. Define what'll make the biggest impact on yourself and your team.
  2. Estimate how far you can get this quarter and how much time that will take.
  3. Block that off on your calendar, being specific with each calendar entry.

​1-2-3.

Stick to the plan as much as you can.

​80% success makes a lot of progress.

One thing is for sure.

​One investment is always a winner.

Investing in your future success.

Mo

ps. Like last week, special thanks to Cyril for sparking this idea. If you want to dig into his content more, check out his book Work Smarter Live Better or his website and weekly videos HERE. His weekly plan download on the front page of his website goes deeper than what I shared above. Great template!