...a little bit every day. Whether you are a financial planner promoting the value of dollar cost averaging, or a business coach working with a client to achieve a sales goal, the theme is consistent. It is much more productive to work on "what matters" just a little bit every day instead of attempting to pull an all-nighter the evening before the exam.
This past week, I met with my Italian business partners to review progress on our global strategic initiatives. It seemed to be a logical time to do this as we were quickly approaching the midpoint of the fiscal year and happened to be in Orlando for a tradeshow. What better time to celebrate our successes and to do a quick gut check on what lies ahead. I could sense some tension and before we even opened the documents, one of them abruptly confessed, "I haven't made any significant progress with my team, but I'm sure we will be more focused next quarter." I immediately objected and was able to quickly rattle off a list of small victories that the team had achieved since their formation 5 months ago.
This reminded me of a personal experience that I shared with my fellow Rotarians a few years ago and how it shifted my perspective on the importance of driving change through small contributions on a daily basis. "On Saturday, I crawled out of bed at 05:30, had some coffee and drove up to Waunakee for what should have been a fun and easy ten mile community festival run. With a dozen marathons under my belt, this was sure to be a breeze. It was the third year participating in what has typically been a very enjoyable and relaxing race. After the usual pre-race acknowledgements, the canon fired (yes a real canon) and we were on our way. About 2 miles in at a record pace, the adrenalin quickly wore off and the concept of capturing a personal best began to fade. My heart never slowed and my breathing stayed heavy. As we approached the 7-mile marker, I started to question whether I could even finish the race. What was happening this year? It was the exact course as the previous years but the wheels were falling off of the bus. Although the temperature and humidity were both slightly higher, what made this Saturday unique was the undeniable fact that I had been very lax with my daily training since the Memorial Day holiday. Thought I could just pull another one out of the hat now that this was familiar territory. By the time I crossed the finish line, I had managed to add almost 10 minutes to last year's time. The only personal best achieved this time was increasing my maximum heart rate! I was often too happy to brag "what I like most about running a marathon is that you cannot fake it! If you don't do the daily work, you can't get to the end for the beer and the medal." I regret to inform you that Mr. Vanden Burgt didn't do the daily work and paid dearly for that when the rubber met the road!"
I would like to suggest that the same principle applies to almost any aspect of your life and certainly when implementing change. If you drop a few coins in your bucket each day, (either financially, by your good deeds, or activities that support the desired change) you will be surprised at the total contribution by the end of the year.
Every month at the Chamber, Van keeps a scorecard that he shares with the Board or Directors. On that scorecard, we track about 15 different activities that we believe measure progress toward our objectives. If we fall behind or get ahead on the daily activities that we know are crucial to our success, we know right away and make minor corrections. Do you have a similar scorecard? If so, this is no big news and you are well on your way. If not, maybe the mid-year point is a good time to take a look at your goals and think about the activities or changes you could implement daily to ensure you achieve the desired outcomes in 2015.
Additionally, there are two questions I try to ask myself every weekend:
1. What's the most exceptional thing I've done this week?
2. What's the most exceptional thing I will do next week?
There are more times than I would like to admit that I don't score myself or even look at my list. There are also many weeks where I don't really do anything all that exceptional. But just thinking about it once in awhile provides some guidance in decision making and helps remind me to contribute a little bit every day to my personal, professional, and community goals.
Have a great month!