The ABC’s of business continue, and we’ve made it to the letter D. I thought long and hard about what the letter D best represents in business. Determination, dedication, decisions…. the list could go on and on. In the end, however, I came to the conclusion that D is for differentiate. Even then, there are still different interpretations on what that could mean. Many would think that differentiate would mean to distinguish yourself from the competition. While that does hold an air of truth, that isn’t the interpretation I am focusing on today. In fact, this week differentiate has nothing at all to do with your competition, and everything to do with those close to you. Your loved ones, your friends, your clients, etc.
Today, D means to differentiate by setting boundaries. According to Google, the definition of differentiate means “to make or become different in the process of growth or development”. I can’t stress how important this is when attempting to start your own business or excel in your current career. It really is important in every area of your life, but we’ll focus on the business aspect today.
When you work for an employer, you have the luxury of starting and stopping times. This isn’t always the case when you decide to go into business on your own. This is even more true if you are working from home (like I do). You’ve got business calls to make and receive, appointments to keep, webinar to attend, information to review; and somewhere in the midst of all of that you must juggle maintaining your home, family, children, friends, and a little personal time if your lucky.
Eventually, you begin feeling overwhelmed as if every part of your life is beginning to mesh together. Instead of having dedicated times to focus on something, you’re spreading yourself thin between many things and nothing is receiving your full attention anymore. You begin making mistakes and performing at a level less than what you are capable of. You may feel like you’re being a superhero accomplishing so much, but in reality the QUALITY of the task you’re completing are rapidly declining. We’ve all been there.
Here’s what you do:
STOP – Take a moment to breath. Turn on some relaxing music softly in the background (you dont need to stimulate your brain by rocking out to the bass), and start taking inventory of the things around you.
JOT – Take a piece of paper and start jotting down all the responsibilities you have, and the task you need to complete. Don’t worry about putting them in specific order, just get them out of your head and onto the paper. You need to clear up room in your brain for new ideas, rather than having it boggled down by task and such.
DIFFERENTIATE – You have your task on paper and NOW it’s time to make some decisions. Organize your task into categories: Family, Business, Friends, Personal. Look at these categories closely. Each of these should be wweighted around the same. While you may argue that one is more important than the other (like family for instance), truth is a balance between all of them is crucial in order for you to achieve the greatest mental health.
SET BOUNDARIES – Now that you distinguished the categories, it’s important for you to set boundaries. Without boundaries, these structured categories mean nothing. Once you know what categories things belong to, you have the benefit of focusing your attention on one category at a time and allowing that category your full and undivided attention.
STICK TO IT – Now perhaps the most important part, sticking to your boundaries. They mean nothing if you don’t stick to them. A great way to keep them from overlapping is to utilize your calendar. Set blocks of time for EVERYTHING, and keep it honest. If you like to talk to your friends on the phone throughout the day, that’s okay. But set a 30 min. time slot to do just that, and stick to it. If you use less, great. Adjust your calendar to start early on your next task. I personally work from home with a soon to be 7 month old, and adjusting my schedule is just a way of life. That’s why it’s important to leave chunks of downtime in between appointments so that you have wiggle room if needed (if I plan for her to have nap time at 12pm, she’ll surely stay up until 2pm. This may cause a need for me to switch my calendar around a bit to adjust).
PRIORITIZE – While it’s fine to read adjust your calendar with certain things, there are others that this is absolutely not possible. You’d never want to move a client call or Skype around, or miss a deadline for an important project. That’s why it’s important to prioritize. Sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice. Sometimes your family will have to sacrifice. That’s just the way it is, if you plan on being successful. Schedule changes may cause you to have to delay a phone call with a friend, or lose some personal time in order to accomplish task and meet deadlines. That’s okay. Being successful is all about flexibility.
Differentiating between areas of your life is great, but it only works as well as you implement it and is easier said than done. You have to stand tall and fight to protect your time. If you have a 30 min call with a friend, it needs to end AT 30 minutes. Not until you end the convo you’re having. Likewise, you must protect time from clients, family and friends who feel they can call you whenever they like. Boundaries must be set. If you receive a call or are engaged in a Facebook convo with a friend and it’s business time, let the phone go to voicemail. Let the inbox message sit for awhile until you have time in your calendar for personal indulgences. If they are truly supportive of you, they’ll understand and begin to be more considerate of your time. If they don’t understand….we’ll that’s another article all together!
As always thank you reading! Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I love hearing from you.
Check out other articles in the ABC’s Of Business Series