You’re the boss, but you still spend too much time on the day-to-day. Here’s how to become the strategic leader your company needs.

In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, you met with investors, you emptied the trash and phoned in the midnight pizza. Now you have others to do all that and it’s time for you to “be strategic.”

Whatever that means.

If you find yourself resisting “being strategic,” because it sounds like a fast track to irrelevance, or vaguely like an excuse to slack off, you’re not alone. Every leader’s temptation is to deal with what’s directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you’ll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you’re on is leading off a cliff.

This is a tough job, make no mistake. “We need strategic leaders!” is a pretty constant refrain at every company, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It’s hard to be a strategic leader if you don’t know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.

After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what’s required of you in this role. Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well:

Anticipate 

Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:

  • Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
  • Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
  • Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

Think Critically

“Conventional wisdom” opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:

  • Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
  • Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including their own
  • Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions

Interpret 

Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution.  A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:

  • Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
  • Encourage others to do the same
  • Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously

Decide

Many leaders fall pretty to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:

  • Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
  • Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
  • Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views

 Align

Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge.  To pull that off, you need to:

  • Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden
  • Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable
  • Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support

Learn

As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by.  You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure–especially failure–are valuable sources of organizational learning.  Here’s what you need to do:

  • Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
  • Shift course quickly if you realize you’re off track
  • Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

Source: http://www.inc.com

Why aren’t U.S. businesses leading the global economy to recovery? Erratic capital markets, systemic risk, tax policy, and regulatory uncertainty have all been offered as culprits, and all play their parts. But another factor is lurking that may eclipse the rest and, if left unaddressed, will continue to put the U.S. at a severe global disadvantage — the great mismatch between skilled jobs and the talent needed to fill them. The failure to find and nurture this talent is preventing U.S. companies from innovating their way to competitive advantage.

This problem is alarmingly widespread and not limited to start-ups: According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 15th annual CEO survey, released at last January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, nearly 50% of CEOs from all sectors and all corners of the globe say that this skill gap has become more difficult to fill.

How is it possible that finding talented employees is a problem for U.S. (and European) business when unemployment rates remain so stubbornly high? Why are CEOs having just as much trouble finding talent now as they did in tighter job markets?

The problem is that the financial meltdown that has swelled the unemployment ranks is dwarfed by the on-going effects of the digital transformation of world markets. This transformation was taking place well before the financial crisis, but while other trends ended or shifted gears, the transformation to digital economies kept on going, with very little interruption.

An interesting thing happened on the way to the future. Innovations like smart phones and the ease of transporting financial data through mobile technology are having a more immediate positive effect on emerging economies than on developed ones; demographics are on their side, and there were few legacy industries that needed to be supplanted or creatively destroyed. They skipped over the heavy capital expenditure required to put infrastructure like wires in the ground and went straight to mobile phones.

Companies and industry sectors in the West are only just beginning to realize the promise of the digital revolution and to understand its profound impact. As one bank CEO interviewed for our survey put it, “Our future competitors will not be traditional banks, but large technology companies.”

The paradigm shift at work here is just now becoming apparent. Manufacturing companies are beginning to regain their competitive edge through new applications of technology in the production process. Consumer goods companies are trying to figure out how to sell directly to customers. Retailers, long viewed as mostly domestic players, are stretching their reach globally by becoming “omni-channel” retailers.

Traditionally, such transformations create skills gaps that are temporary. But a transformation of this scale will take a lot longer than such shifts have in the recent past. That means the mismatch between talent and demand for constant innovation will likely remain high on the agenda of CEOs of businesses in both the East and the West long after the financial crisis resolves.

Already, 75% of the U.S. CEOs and 70% of global CEOs in our survey say they are investing in training to ensure a future pipeline of qualified employees. Such training will likely need to be on-going, as the digital revolution plays out in continual technological innovation. However, companies can’t do it alone. As we work our way out of the greatest recession in 80 years and into this burgeoning digital economy, CEOs are looking for a partnership with government. In fact, 57% of U.S. CEOs said creating and fostering a skilled workforce should be a top priority of governments. So while the appetite to invest is there, U.S. CEOs are looking to forge more public-private partnerships, to fully embrace the challenges and opportunities of the digital transformation that in turn will help restore competitiveness.

But beyond that, for U.S. companies to become and remain competitive, they will need to find people who are not just trained in, familiar with, or comfortable with these ever-transforming technologies, but also those with the entrepreneurial drive to conceive of practical, productive — and profitable — uses for them.

Source: Harvard Business Reveiw

People who fail to achieve goals signal their intent to fail by using this common phrase. Make sure you aren’t falling into the same trap.

busy entrepreneur

People who fail to achieve goals almost always signal their intent to fail by using three little word:

“I will try…”

There are no three words in the English language that are more deceptive, both to the person who says them and the person who hears them.

People who say “I will try” have given themselves permission to fail.  No matter what happens, they can always claim that they “tried.”

People who hear “I will try” and don’t realize what it really means are fooling themselves, by thinking there’s a chance that the speaker will actually succeed.

People who really and truly achieve goals never say “I will try.”

Instead, they always say “I will do” something–or, better yet, “I must do” whatever the task is.As a wise (though fictional) guru once said: “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.'”

Source: http://www.inc.com

Sure, everyone knows what a brand is. Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s. But that buzzword is getting thrown around a whole lot in career and job search conversations these days, too. And you might be thinking to yourself, “why do I really have to care about this?”

Here’s why: Whether you’re on the job hunt, a student, or gainfully employed, you must think, act, and plan like a business leader. With the surge of social media, you have not only the ability, but you now have the need to manage your own reputation, both online and in real life.

Employers will Google you before they even invite you to an interview. (Your current employer probably has an eye on what you’re doing, too.) And when you interact with people, both online and offline, they’ll build up an image of who you are over time.

And here’s where you come in: You want to be in control of all of those impressions. Why leave your professional reputation to chance, when you can be your own PR guru and manage your image?

Your personal brand is all about who you are and what you want to be known for. And while that’s a pretty broad concept, I’m going to break down the process for building your brand into a few easy steps, which we’ll cover over the next few weeks.

Your first task: Developing your “brand mantra.” Basically, this is the “heart and soul” of your brand, according to branding expert Kevin Keller. It’s the foundation of all of your branding efforts.

It’s not a mission statement (check out Guy Kawasaki’s blog post for the difference)—rather, it’s a quick, simple, and memorable statement describing who you are and what you have to offer. Ivanka Trump is “an American wife, mother, and entrepreneur.” FedEx is “peace of mind.” Disney is “fun family entertainment.” Rick Ross feat. T-Pain is “I’m a BOSS.”

And yes, those are all famous options, but the same basic principles apply for your own brand. Ready for your turn? Here are four simple steps to creating your mantra:

1. Determine Your Emotional Appeal

For starters, think broadly about your personality and how it affects the experience someone will have with you. Are you insanely organized? Do people love working with you for your killer sense of humor?

Make a list of words that best describe these features of your personality. These words are known as emotional modifiers. Hint: They can be as simple as Disney’s “fun.”

Questions to Consider:
  • How do I make people feel?
  • How do people benefit by working with me?
  • What words do others use to describe me?

2. Determine Your Description

Your next step is coming up with a descriptive modifier that brings clarity to the emotional modifier, identifying what or who your brand is for. In Disney’s case, it’s “family.” In Nike’s mantra, “authentic athletic performance,” “authentic” is the emotional appeal, while “athletic” tells you what the brand is for. As an individual, yours might be an industry (“healthcare” or “education”), or it might be a tangible skill (“creative” or “strategic”).

Questions to Consider:
  • What field or industry am I in (or do I want to be in)?
  • What are the words I would use to describe my work?
  • Who is my target audience?

3. Determine Your Function

Lastly, write down what, exactly, you do (or will do). It might be something that directly relates to your career: writing, graphic design, or financial planning, for example. Or, it might be something more broad, like Disney’s “entertainment.” Are you a manager, a creator, an organizer? A connector of people?

Questions to Consider:
  • What service do I have to offer people?
  • What do I do that makes me stand out from everyone else?

4. Put it All Together

Finally, look at your three lists of words, and see how you can combine them into a short sentence or phrase—no more than five words. Your brand mantra should communicate clearly who you are, it should be simple and memorable, and it should feel inspiring to you. You might be a “dependable, strategic planner” or “a creative professional connector.” Or, your mantra might be something like, “motivating others to do their best.”

Now—what do you do with this statement? Check back soon for tips on how to use your mantra and build your online brand, as well as how to live your brand, every day.

This article was originally posted on The Daily Muse. For more on the best ways to market yourself, check out:

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2012/02/14/the-first-step-to-building-your-personal-brand/

Yes, predictions are hard, especially about the future. But they’re fun!

And, sometimes, they can even be useful. They’re rarely correct but, perhaps, they help clarify and hone one’s thinking about the future.

And so, in the spirit of enlightened thinking about our industry, here are Business Insider Intelligence’s 12 Internet Predictions For 2012:

Google Will Release A $200 Tablet

Amazon’s Kindle Fire changed the tablet game, largely thanks to its price, way below the competition; It looks like it’s going to be a holiday blockbuster;

Meanwhile, Google is fighting a platform war with Apple and has been humiliated on the tablet front, with high-priced, lower-featured Android tablets getting clobbered by the iPad. The way Google can grab tablet marketshare, which it needs to do, is to imitate Amazon’s strategy of selling a radically lower-priced tablet at a loss. And, for the first time, it can do that, since it’s in the process of buying tablet-maker Motorola.

Facebook Will Grow Faster Than Anyone Thinks And Hit 1 Billion Users

Facebook already has 800 million users, and many people assume that its growth is hitting a wall, as it reaches dominance in the big developed markets and it’s locked out of markets like China and Russia. But, there is still a lot of room for growth in places like South-East Asia, India and Brazil, and Facebook’s network effect is a powerful thing.

Twitter Will Build A Huge Business

A lot of ink is being spilt on Twitter’s product, Twitter’s executive turnover, Twitter’s usage–and these are all noteworthy topics to cover. But while all this is going on, Twitter has been quietly building a huge business.

In the past year or so, Twitter has been tentatively experimenting with various ad formats, and now it’s found the formats that work for advertisers and consumers. 2012 will be the year when Twitter really scales it up and starts generating very serious revenue.

RIM Will Sell

It’s over for RIM. The company’s the walking dead. We all know that. The market now has realized it. At some point someone like HTC or Nokia or someone else will snap it up for its patents and its enterprise business. (Maybe even ZTE, the Chinese mobile OEM that is trying to move up the stack and become a consumer brand.)

Apple Will Boringly Grow In Line With Analysts’ Estimates

apple earnings versus analyst expectationsApple has had an uncanny ability to explode past most analyst estimates, as this great chart at right from Asymco’s Horace Dediu shows. This was due to two reasons: analysts underestimated Apple, and Apple grabbed on to two huge rocketship markets with the iPhone and the iPad.

These two problems are being solved. The iPhone is hitting a natural limit as Android swallows the market, and while the iPad is ushering in the post-PC era, its growth is probably steadily predictable. And while Apple is likely to come out with some sort of amazing revolutionary new TV product next year, that’s not as big a market as phones and tablets, so even if it does very well it won’t supercharge Apple’s top and bottom lines, at least not in the first year.

This boring prediction is actually risky: over the past few years, the “safe” bet has been that Apple would overperform, and Apple fanboys have had a lot of fun quoting industry analysts predicting the demise of, you name it, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. And maybe we’ll look this foolish a year from now. But we think Apple is in “cruise speed” and expectations have caught up to this superbly-run and innovative company. So we think Apple will grow fast and be in rude health in 2012, but, for once, won’t deviate much from the consensus forecast.

Nokia Will Do OK

Many people are expecting Nokia to be the next RIM–an ignominious collapse. And indeed it has slid a lot. But Nokia is much bigger than RIM and, unlike RIM, its execs aren’t asleep at the wheels. They are pumping out good phones with a good software platform, into one of the world’s biggest phone distribution channels. It will take many years before we see if Nokia and Microsoft will become a strong player in mobile, but next year Nokia will neither do outstandingly nor collapse, but do OK.

Amazon Will Post Serious Losses And Outstanding Revenue Growth

 

chart of the day, kindle price september 2011

As the price of a Kindle goes down, Amazon’s revenue and losses go up

After years in “harvesting” mode Amazon is back in “investing” mode. Jeff Bezos, the most long-term thinking entrepreneur on Earth, realizes he is looking at some massive opportunities: building a complete digital media distribution ecosystem; building the biggest cloud platform of the 21st century; and, last but not least, eating retail.

 

All of these opportunities require upfront investment. But because Bezos has been at this before, they will pay off. All of the things that Bezos is investing in–below-cost tablets, perks for Amazon Prime subscribers, data centers for Amazon Web Services–show up as more revenue and less profits. We think you will be surprised next year by how big the losses will be and how fast the revenue will grow.

The New Breed Of Vertical, Entertaimnent-Focused Ecommerce Companies Will Get Huge

With the internet now reaching over a billion people, plenty of vertical markets have reached a tipping point, becoming big enough to support massive companies focused on one product category. Examples include Gilt Groupe for fashion, Warby Parker for glasses, One Kings’ Lane and Fab.com for home decor, and others. With these pioneers leading the way, investment and value creation in this area will proliferate. (Thanks to Silicon Valley demigod Marc Andreessen for reminding us.)

2012 Will Finally Be The Year Mobile Advertising Really Take Off, With At Least One AdNet Going Public

 

Business Insider Ignition 2011 33

Where usage leads, dollars follow…

Mobile advertising is still tiny compared to internet advertising, let alone all advertising, but it won’t stay that way forever: smartphones are proliferating, outselling even PCs, and will soon reach a scale unseen in the history of computing. This isn’t a bold prediction. What may be bolder is that some mobile ad companies will finally grow huge this year, with a mobile ad network, probably either InMobi or Millenial Media, going public. Mobile isn’t yet taking over the world, but it’s now big enough that some companies are now generating serious revenue and we’ll see more of that.

 

Rovio Will Open At Least One Store In The US

Rovio is (or at least wants to be) the next Disney: it makes money not so much through the products it’s known for (movies for Disney, games for Rovio), but through tons of merchandise connected to the magic brands these products popularize. Accordingly, Rovio has an ambitious retail strategy of opening amazing Angry Birds stores, and it will probably open one in the US in 2012 (though Europe and China are first).

This Year, Enterprise-Focused Startups Will Blow Up

“Enterprise is sexy.” You’re about to hear that phrase a lot. The stars are all aligned for enterprise startups. Companies are sitting on tons of cash, not knowing what to do with it, because of the economy. Trends like the consumerization of IT, the proliferation of new mobile devices and the cloud have converged, giving a serious opportunity for newcomers to displace the incumbent enterprise software players. 2012 will be a year of big IPOs (like Workday) and big financings (YammerBox.net) for ambitious enterprise startups.

You Will See A Ton Of Hype Around “The Internet Of Things”

“The Internet Of Things” is a catchy term revolving around the idea that most everyday objects around us will be equipped with internet-collected electronics, and this will open up new applications. This goes from novelty items like scales that tweet your weight (encouraging you through peer pressure to watch it) to ambitious visions like Jawbone’s steps toward wearable computing. We’re not yet sure if The Internet Of Things will be a huge business or a passing fad, but we’re willing to bet you’ll be hearing a ton about it in 2012.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/12-industry-predictions-for-2012-2011-12#ixzz1hoNesuAU

At McGhee Productivity Solutions, we have consultants and employees located around the country. Because we work together on a lot of documents, we need a central location where we can store and edit these documents as well as keep track of our schedules. To work together as efficiently as possible, we use a team website created with Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services. Team sites work great if you have team members working in different locations, or even if your team is all in one office.

In this article, I’m going to give you 7 tips we’ve learned in setting up and using our team website. These tips can help you get up and running productively as quickly as possible with your site.

Note:  Windows SharePoint Services is a great, and underused, tool for managing teams and team projects. You can use it to create a team website to track objectives and projects, as well as have a central location for storing and collaborating on documents.

Image of a team website created with Windows SharePoint ServicesExample of a team website created with Windows SharePoint Services.

1. Create folder names that are clear and consistent

Organize site folders by whatever makes the most sense for your team. The key is to be clear and, above all, consistent. For example you could choose to organize:

  • By department
  • By objective
  • Alphabetically
  • By clients
  • By project

We also create a new Document Library folder in SharePoint for each project. We can store all of our files related to a project in a Document Library. This not only helps keep our files organized, but makes it easier if a project is reassigned for the new owner to take ownership of all the associated materials. Learn how to add a new Document Library folder.


2. Develop standards for naming files

Decide as a team how you want to name your files. For example, you can insist that a date be attached to each file, or that the person who created the file put their initials in the file name. Also, you can take advantage of the fact that you can use long file names for files and SharePoint folders. Be sure to publish your naming structure so that everyone on the team knows what it is. Above all, be consistent in reinforcing and using this naming convention. This is critical. We’ve found that if you don’t, your team won’t know how find files and therefore won’t use the site effectively.


3. Keep only the latest versions of files

Develop an archive folder system for keeping previous versions of files for historical or version control needs. We keep only one current version in our “active” folders. This clears up any possible confusion over which version of a document should be used, particularly when your team members download files to their computer to work on while they’re traveling or working out of their office.

If your team members do copy files onto their computers, you need to take extra precautions to ensure you only have the most current versions of their files on the team website. If team members keep versions of files on their computer, they should change the file name. That way, if they upload the file at a later date, they will not overwrite something on the team website that might have been edited in the meantime.


4. Give clear ownership of each section of the team website

Give each folder a single owner who can add files to it. We find that this ensures the integrity of naming and file structures within each section of the team website. Multiple people may edit documents in various folders, but we make sure no one else uploads new documents or creates new folders inside a folder owned by someone else.


5. Check out and check in files

You will probably have a number of files (like sales data) that are accessed and edited by several team members. While SharePoint won’t allow multiple people to save an open file, it is possible for a person to open a file while someone else is editing it. Unless the file is checked out, you run the risk of more than one person working on the same file. One or more people may end up doing work that can’t be properly saved. And if a user doesn’t check the file back in, then others can’t access it. Learn how to:

Image of how to check out a fileMake sure you check out files on your team website before working on them.


6. Clearly describe folder contents

As people on the team change, they will need to know what they can expect to find in different Document Library folders. Because we include a clear description of each folder, the new team member knows what’s in each folder and can find the documents they need to get up to speed a lot faster. This has been really useful to us when an account grows large enough that we add another consultant to the team. We also modify the descriptions when we complete a project. We designate the library as containing archive information rather than active information.

Image of a Document LibraryClearly describe each folder in your Document Library.

To put in a detailed description of a Document Library:

  1. Click on the Document Library you want to edit.
  2. In the Document Library you want to edit, in the left navigation, click Modify Settings and Columns.
  3. On the Customize page, in the General Settings section, click Change General Settings.
  4. This takes you to the Document Library Settings page, In the Name and Description section, type in the description of the folder. Click OK.

7. Link to files in SharePoint folders

When you’re working on a project, it’s easy to just insert a file from the team website into an email. By sending out different versions of the same file, however, you could end up with multiple versions of the same document. It’s far more reliable to just insert a link to the document in your email. You can also put links to SharePoint documents into a task in Microsoft Office Outlook, or into an appointment on your calendar.

If you store multiple copies of a file on your team website, it’s also easy for one copy of the file to get modified and leave the others out of date. Instead, we make sure we only have one version of a document and link to it from other places when necessary.

To put a link to file on your team website into any Microsoft Office document:

  1. Locate the document you want to create a link for. Put your cursor over the document name until the file name turns red.
  2. Right-click on the red file name and in the drop-down menu and click Copy Shortcut.
  3. With your mouse cursor in the body of your task, appointment, contact, documents folder, or in another file, right-click and click Paste. This will paste the link. When you click on the link, it will open the actual document.
Image of a how to copy a shortcut in Windows SharePoint ServicesPut links to documents on your team website rather then putting different versions in multiple locations.

To put a link to file on your team website into another part of the website:

  1. Locate the document you want to create a link for. Put your cursor over the document name until the file name turns red.
  2. Right-click on the red file name and in the drop-down menu and click Copy Shortcut.
  3. Navigate to the folder you want to include the link in. Click New Document. SharePoint will open a new document called “template.htm” in Microsoft Word.
  4. Paste the shortcut into the new document. Select all of the text and right click on it.
  5. Click Hyperlink… and type in the text you want in the Text to display box (for example, “Click here to see the final version of this presentation.”) Click OK.
  6. Save the file. When anyone opens this file, clicking the link will take them to the current version of the referenced file.

I hope sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned at McGhee Productivity Solutions will help you get a head start on your own team website.

Source: Microsoft at Work

http://www.microsoft.com/atwork/collaboration/teamsites.aspx?WT.rss_f=At%20Work%20RSS&WT.rss_a=7%20tips%20for%20team%20websites&WT.rss_ev=a

The 5 Best SEO Tools For 2012

I recently got back from a month’s vacation — the longest I’ve ever taken, and a shocking indulgence for an American. (Earlier this summer, I was still fretting about how to pull off two weeks unplugged.) The distance, though, helped me hone in on what’s actually important to my professional career — and which make-work activities merely provide the illusion of progress. Inspired by HBR blogger Peter Bregman’s idea of creating a “to ignore” list , here are the activities I’m going to stop cold turkey in 2012 — and perhaps you should, too.

  1. Responding Like a Trained Monkey. Every productivity expert in the world will tell you to check email at periodic intervals — say, every 90 minutes — rather than clicking “refresh” like a Pavlovian mutt. Of course, almost no one listens, because studies have shown email’s “variable interval reinforcement schedule” is basically a slot machine for your brain. But spending a month away — and only checking email weekly — showed me how little really requires immediate response. In fact, nothing. A 90 minute wait won’t kill anyone, and will allow you to accomplish something substantive during your workday.
  2. Mindless Traditions. I recently invited a friend to a prime networking event. “Can I play it by ear?” she asked. “This is my last weekend to get holiday cards out and I haven’t mailed a single one. It is causing stress!” In the moment, not fulfilling an “obligation” (like sending holiday cards) can make you feel guilty. But if you’re in search of professional advancement, is a holiday card (buried among the deluge) going to make a difference? If you want to connect, do something unusual — get in touch at a different time of year, or give your contacts a personal call, or even better, meet up face-to-face. You have to ask if your business traditions are generating the results you want.
  3. Reading Annoying Things. I have nearly a dozen newspaper and magazine subscriptions, the result of alluring specials ($10 for an entire year!) and the compulsion not to miss out on crucial information. But after detoxing for a month, I was able to reflect on which publications actually refreshed me — and which felt like a duty. The New Yorker , even though it’s not a business publication, broadens my perspective and is a genuine pleasure to read. The pretentious tech publication with crazy layouts and too-small print? Not so much. I’m weeding out and paring down to literary essentials. What subscriptions can you get rid of?
  4. Work That’s Not Worth It. Early in my career, I was thrilled to win a five-year, quarter-million dollar contract. That is, until the reality set in that it was a government contract, filled with ridiculous reporting mechanisms, low reimbursement rates and administrative complexities that sucked the joy and profit out of the work. When budget cuts rolled around and my contract got whacked, it turned out to be a blessing. These days, I’m eschewing any engagement, public or private, that looks like more trouble than it’s worth.
  5. Making Things More Complicated Than They Should Be. A while back, a colleague approached me with an idea. She wanted me to be a part of a professional development event she was organizing in her city, featuring several speakers and consultants. She recommended biweekly check-in calls for the next eight months, leading up to the event. “Have you organized an event like this before?” I asked. “Can you actually get the participants? Why don’t you test the demand first?” When none materialized, I realized I’d saved myself nearly half a week’s work — in futile conference calls — by insisting the event had to be “real” before we invested in it. As Eric Ries points out in his new book The Lean Startup , developing the best code or building the best product in the world is meaningless if your customers don’t end up wanting it. Instead, test early and often to ensure you’re not wasting your time. What ideas should you test before you’ve gone too far?

Eliminating these five activities is likely to save me hundreds of hours next year — time I can spend expanding my business and doing things that matter. What are you going to stop doing? And how are you going to leverage all that extra time?

Source: Harvard Business Review