The most expensive, most stressful thing on your desk

Nothing destroys a work day like distractions.

Ever realize that it’s “suddenly” dinner time and all you remember doing since lunch is reading Facebook?

That’ll show up nicely on a deposit slip. Hello, stress.

Distractions are a product of your work environment, your work habits and how those two things are communicated to others.

Your work environment

What you surround yourself with is critical to your work. Clutter doesn’t help – and I mean clutter of all kinds – physical as well as electronic.

These things are waiting to distract you, so you have to eliminate them from your work environment. Eliminate doesn’t necessarily mean trash.

Electronic clutter is particularly distracting to me, so I’ve surrounded myself with systems that “protect” me from it. Instapaper helps me get rid of open browser tabs that I was saving to read. Things, a GTD-oriented system, helps me store ideas and to-do items on notes, in my head, in emails, etc.

Because I know they’re not “lost”, they don’t clutter up my browser, mind, desk or subconscious. Don’t take the last one lightly. Worrying about forgetting something is very distracting.

Random phone calls are also a form of clutter, so I only take calls by appointment (with very few exceptions). I know – you think you can’t do this without losing sales. I thought the same thing.

My tools may not fit you. Use what fits. Discard what doesn’t.

Your work habits

Last night at a local restaurant, I spoke with one of my Scouts who’s home from college for the summer. He’s in amazing physical condition and has been for years, despite being a skinny little guy years ago. He says people often say they want to “look like him”, but they don’t want to do the work he did to get that way.

He tells them it’s as easy as working out every day, which may be hard to do until it becomes a piece of your life you aren’t willing to give up for anyone – even your immediate family. That hour a day that no one (or nothing) can take from you for any reason isn’t neglect. It’s building a better you so you can be better for them.

Habits are just as critical at work.

One of my mentors would growl “Just do more of what matters. Make more time by doing less of what doesn’t.” While he’s right and yes, it’s common sense, most people need help doing it.

Consider the three most important tasks you need to finish next week. Do you have to think about it to remember them? That’s not good.

I use my calendar and Things to tell me those three tasks. Neither tool forgets. I review Things every weekend and schedule work tasks on my calendar as if they were meetings, speaking gigs or other commitments.

In an age where you can watch TV on your phone and people can contact you almost anywhere, you have to take managing yourself seriously. Scheduling things (even blog writing) in my calendar is how I make sure that the important things get done – including family stuff and paying bills.

A full calendar makes it easy to say no to less important things you don’t have time for. If the important things like work and family are booked first, stuff that doesn’t matter enough has no place to go.

How those two are communicated to others

People appreciate when you don’t immediately answer your phone, but always return their call.

People appreciate when you don’t immediately reply to an email, but always reply.

People appreciate it when you don’t miss a ball game, a play, a concert or a night out, even if you have to work afterward.

When people see you glance at and then ignore a vibrating phone while in a meeting with them, they’ll ask about it the first time. When you tell them that you aren’t answering because you booked this time solely to give them 100% of your attention, your previously “unreasonable” call policy suddenly becomes reasonable.

If you work (or play) with focused attention, people will notice and appreciate it.

You mentioned stress. What about that?

How much stress would you have if you didn’t forget important things and routinely completed them?

 

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Disclosure: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

Can you find the quality in this kitchen? It isn’t the bacon.

Baconfest Chicago Chef Rose
Photo credit: Chicago Serious Eats

People send me bacon links and/or bacon photos on Facebook almost every day.

I’m not sure what started it. You’d think they see me around town with a fistful of bacon all the time (they don’t, I rarely have any) but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Today, I found my own link about Baconfest Chicago and it’s all business (OK, there is a little bit of bacon too).

Check out the slideshow illustrating how Chef Rose cooks his Baconfest winning dish and look for ways he’s managing the quality of the food his kitchen produces.

Hint: One of my favorite quotes is from Chef Gordon Ramsey: “Without a leader, there are no standards. Without standards, there is no consistency.”

Where do you see Chef Rose managing quality?

How many pennies would you sell your reputation for?

My wife’s birthday was this weekend, so as a last bit of her gift, our youngest son and I took her to one of her favorite restaurants in the Valley.

As we sat down and caught up on junior’s just-finished semester at Pacific, the “so, what are you gonna order” discussion starts.

My wife has a favorite entree there – and to my knowledge has never ordered anything else in our many visits to this place over a period of roughly 5 years.

But this time, she asks for something else.

Turns out that the last time we visited, she ordered this item and the creamy sauce was more watery than creamy and just “didn’t seem like it used to”.

My son likes that dish as well, so he ordered it anyway.

Taking Pride

Most of my son’s jobs have been in the fine dining and/or catering business and the chefs he’s worked for are a couple of the finest we have to offer in our area.

His dish arrives and sure enough, he notices things that would have never flown at his employers’ restaurants.

Chipped plates, for example. His arrives with a small handful of chips around the edges of the plate. Both mine and my wife’s have them as well.

He tells us that someone with pride in their work would never serve these entrees on chipped plates (this is a restaurant with entrees from $14-29).

He also notices that the sauce is thinner than usual and not seasoned as it was in the past.

Reflecting ownership

“Something’s changed here”, he notes. “Do they have a new owner?”

I’m not sure of the timeframe but I do recall a change of ownership sometime in the past.

While that may or may not be the instigation of the change in entree quality of this place’s signature dish, it doesn’t really matter because it reflects on the owner, the manager and the head chef.

The chipped plates are a symptom of “Oh, that’s good enough”.

Would you sell your business’ reputation gets sold for the price of a $6 dinner plate? Or .08 worth of garlic, a little black pepper and 4 more minutes on the burner?

How about one less restroom check per day? Or a 25 cents worth of Pine Sol in the mop water?

It happens every day. Don’t let it happen to your business. Don’t teach “good enough” to your employees.

Every little thing sends a message. If nothing else, this is high-value marketing with a low price.

Doing it wrong gives it a high cost and delivers the wrong thing – reputation damage that’s hard to get back.

Your clients have better things to do

While I never met Bruce Barrington, one of the reasons I really admire him is something he said long ago about the things that programming tools make you do when building a program.

Bruce said:

Anything you have to do every time shouldn’t have to be done at all.

Mozambique n4
photo credit: babasteve

Frankly, I think you can apply this to a lot of things in business – at least systems and processes-wise.

Here’s an example: Last Friday, I’m logging into Aweber to add a new message to my email newsletter. At the bottom of the list, I notice that my last message had a SpamAssassin score of 0.4.

Call me anal-retentive (or fastidious, whatever) but I don’t like seeing those scores on my emails.

Not. Even. Zero. Point. One.

So I click the SpamAssassin score link, which is supposed to show me which parts of the message caused the score to result. When I click the link, Aweber’s system tells me this:

There was an error in processing your SpamAssassin score. This is usually due to the message having lines that are greater than 80 characters long. If you still get this error message, then please contact customer support.

Tell me this.

Why in the world do I need to contact customer support? If you’re aweber (whose service I really like), wouldn’t you want to know *every single time* that this problem occurs?

Assuming that’s true, they already know who they are and how to contact themselves<g> and they already know who I am, since I’m logged into Aweber and working on my emails. So why don’t they have their system automatically open a support case on this issue?

I simply shouldn’t have to do this manually.
What do you make your clients do every day, every time they do business with you, every time they use your product, service, software or what not…that they shouldn’t have to do?

Fix it. Get started today.

It’ll make your clients appreciate you more because you’re saving their time.

It’ll make your business stronger and more productive because your stuff will have that much more value, and it’ll be easier to use.