As a professional we tend to get lost fighting the fires of survival each day. We constantly win small battles, while we fall behind in the long term war of success. One day we look up and we are hopelessly behind competitors who have launched new strategies which cause us to initiate a fire drill as we play catch up.
We tend to completely re-engineer our overall plans once every five years, causing a major disruption in our lives, rather than trying to achieve a more sensible approach of continual improvement. When it comes to self-improvement there are two significant guidelines to which we must adhere.
First, we must improve constantly or we will be overwhelmed by our competition. Second, improvement must come gradually. Try as we might, there is little chance to transform ourselves overnight.i
Let us assume that we can’t afford to take a year off to revamp our business strategies and we must embark on a rigorous path in order to keep up in a rapidly evolving environment. Where do we start?
The opportunities for personal and professional improvement surround us and we must make ourselves sensitive to these opportunities. Here are some suggestions:
Develop objectives. In what areas do you feel that you need improvement? Talk to a few of your successful peers. In what areas do they possess expertise that you do not. Perhaps you would like to improve your public speaking capacity or you would like to increase your automation capabilities. Make a laundry list of topics and develop your priorities. Remember, you cannot take on all projects at one time.
Visit the book store. Peruse the personal improvement and business sections. Pick up a few books relevant to your topics. These books will be a great source of information and will also help us determine what long-term plan of action might work.
Peruse industry publications. The primary purpose of these organizations is the advancement of its membership. There are a variety of training and marketing materials and events made available to members in different formats. Become involved in these groups as they represent wonderful opportunities to network and learn about opportunities for improvement.
Start attending seminars. Sometimes it seems as though industry seminars are attended by those who are not transacting business and are not attended by those who are doing business because these people are too busy. The truth is that each person needs a balance between business and learning experiences. If you are spending all of your time learning you are not accomplishing anything. You must achieve a balance.
Spend some time developing implementation strategies. Why don’t we spend time improving? Because we don’t find the time. Fires use up our available time because they scream louder. To improve we must make it a priority to do so. What are some examples of implementation strategies?
First, use your down time. Every person spends a certain amount of time in the car. Purchase CD’ and listen to them again and again. Instead of being up-tight because you can’t get to your appointment by blowing through traffic, make your trip more enjoyable and productive.
Second, schedule your learning time. Vow to spend a certain amount of time each week on learning activities. Schedule this time in your calendar. We schedule meetings, doctors appointments, vacations and more. Isn’t learning time just as important? The time expended does not have to be substantial–try an hour each week. Real improvement comes a little at a time through consistent & persistent energy.
Lastly, make your next vacation an improvement experience. Every time you go out of town to unwind, use the opportunity to take on an improvement project. Take a book on honing marketing skills as well as a mystery novel. You will find the experience will renew your vigor as well as the snooze time at the beach!.
Above all, improvement takes a solid commitment. This commitment should not be for a day or a week or a year. It should be for a lifetime. When we stop improving, our business will die.