Fighting Pollen – Fighting Distractions

Every small business person has to learn how to fight distractions.  I am in my seventh year of business for myself and time does not decrease this challenge.  It does not get more difficult, but it never gets better.

You just have to learn to cope.

Today, the pollen count in my office is literally so high that I measure it by how opaque the air and water are and not by petty things like pollen count.  You can literally see the film of pollen that has settled on the water over the last 12 hours.

Pollen Opacity Level on Lake Wylie

Pollen in the Carolinas is a real and tangible thing.  We get thicker pollen falls in the spring than we do snow falls in the winter.  If you have allergies, this can make you want to crawl in bed and die.  After you dust the pollen off your pillow and sheets and flush it out of your tear ducts.

That’s not an option however.  The show must go on.

Mostly, there is no way to solve this problem, so I have to learn to live in the environment as it is.  We have to get used to the fact that it is possible to work when your nose is running, your throat is raw and your eyes have developed a permanent cache of grit that could make a camel weep.

NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) Training Skills Applied to Small Business

Pollen Pollen Pollen

Original image By DVIDSHUB (Gas! Gas! Gas! [Image 5 of 6]) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On this fine April day, while I slaved at my laptop from my dock office on Lake Wylie listening to the birds and tree frogs duel for sonic domination, I recalled my Army days.  I once had a similar feeling in my throat and nasal passages.  It is easy now 20 years later to remember the gas chamber repleat with its quaint  chemical burn mixed with just a hint of oxygen.

In the Army, we were trained to

1) recognize the threat

2) take action to protect ourselves first

3) warn everyone around us.

This meant, putting your gas mask on, clearing and sealing it, and jerking the cover over our head.  Next we would extend our arms straight out from our sides, and curl our arms towards our heads three times while yelling “Gas! Gas! Gas” as loud as we could through a gas mask, trying not to gag and choke.

Save Yourself First – Then Warn Everyone Else!

In business, we are often quickly identify a threat or a distraction.  We are very quick to warn everyone around us.

After all misery loves company, and ‘can you believe what we have to do today’, or ‘…what the client asked for in that meeting’, or ‘did you see that email making the rounds?’

We over share the warnings.

We almost never take that initial action to protect ourselves first.  We stop getting the job done and start whining about why its going to take longer, or be harder, or why we need more caffeine or sleep or donuts.

5 Steps to Fight Distractions in Business

So here are some tips and tools you can use to run a more efficient business, but more importantly save yourself for the fight to come.

Step 1 – Automate almost everything!

We may not have terminator robots defending countries yet, but in business you can automate a great deal.

If it can be automated, do it.  If you can make something happen even when you are distracted or incapacitated then your business can continue.  Set your bills to auto-pay and reduce the invoices you have to deal with.  Set your website up to receive client and customer transactions directly.  Auto schedule your blog articles, and connect those to twitter and social networks to automatically share.  Automate your book work too!  I use Outright to automatically keep my books as transactions are made.  At most I only do 5 minutes of book work a month these days.  All that automation saves you to fight another day and reduces the total amount that you have to do when distracted.

Step 2 – Delegate everything else, immediately!

Time for a shit analogy.

There is a reason why shit rolls down hill.  No general anywhere can be successful when they are buried in shit.  🙂 Until the day comes that you can clone yourself into a work force of millions, you have to admit that you cannot do everything.  So unload some of that shit before you are buried in it on a day when the distractions are high.

That means Get help and Delegate the stuff you cannot do.

Then recognize that if things get ‘distracting’ you might not be able to do the stuff you normally do, so delegate that too!  One of the first things I learned in the corporate world is that if you want to get promoted you have to back fill and train someone to do your job first.  Once your position is safely covered, it is a lot easier for your boss to see you moving into something new.  Same principle holds true for a small business, except you are the boss!  How are you going to free your primary employee up to do other things if you are mired in busy work?

Break up everything you do and find ways to task it out.  Find services that perform the responsibilities, look for outsourced help (I am a new big fan of oDesk.com for example but there are many others), if you have the cash flow hire someone, if you do not, look to partner with someone.  Regardless, you need a backup.

Get those tasks out to the people you have chosen to do the work.  Do not become the bottle neck to getting things done.

  • Forward those emails,
  • write up what needs to be done,
  • chat on skype, and
  • make the quick calls to get people on task and doing things for you.

Update your daily plan and identify who is responsible for each of the tasks and repeat.

Step 3 – Do anything that is left!

Hah!  You thought there was going to be a magic bullet at the end to solve all of your problems.  No such luck. Its time to suck it up, expel a big hoooooooooah!

Now make some things happen and get the rest done yourself.  If you automate and delegate everything humanly possible first, whatever is left will be a lot more manageable.   At the end of the day though we are talking about distractions, pollen, allergies, the flu, income taxes, sick kids, flat tires, bad traffic, insomnia, whatever.

It doesn’t matter, find the remainder of your to do list and get some things ticked off that list. Rome wasn’t conquered in a day.  Don’t sweat it if the list is empty by the end of the day.  Get some things taken care of and then start over.

Step 4 – Automate and Delegate What You Couldn’t Do

Double Hah!  No one expected you to be completely successful with ‘Do anything that is left!‘  You are not super human.  Anything you couldn’t finish is probably something that is a great fit for future delegation or automation.  So get busy tightening up these obvious dents in your armor and find better ways to get things done.

Step 5 – Don’t Hoard this information!

Look back up the stream at all the people and services, and employees, and outsourced temporary help or virtual assistants that are making your life easier and your business viable.  Show them your path.  Show them how to do the same thing.  Empower them to automate and delegate for you as well.  Redundancy is great, double and tripe redundancy is even better.  This is the most difficult step.  This is where you need to put your chess playing hat on and think of some ways to also reward the people, who successfully automate and delegate.

I have a ManageWP.com account and they are looking at partnering with Sucuri.  Two great services that will have awesome synergy together and get or keep my business too!

Anyone that can help you automate and delegate out work is significantly contributing to your future success.  Make sure they are rewarded for their results.  Make sure they know that the rewards await their results.  Plus, bounce these ideas off of your friends, family and peers.  Get their advice on how you can do better, how they do better, and brainstorm some ways to make life easier.

For example, I used Outright (mentioned above) for a little over a year.  It automated my business finances saving me tons of time, but my personal financial records were a 4 foot tall paper mess!  This year, I automated my personal finances through a couple services including Mint.com.

Now my personal life is easier and best of all, its less of a distraction on my business life.  My business life is less of a distraction in my personal life and I am benefiting from the synergy of things running more smoothly.  Almost as smoothly as the snot seeping from my nose on this high pollen day!  😉

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