"It's about focus, not tactics."
For some reason, it took me a couple months to get around to reading Cameron Herold’s Double Double. I wish I’d read it six months ago.
Cameron Herold has a track record of success. His current company, BackPocket COO, is his coaching, consulting and training vehicle. Through his coaching, products and speaking engagements, he teaches hundreds of small business owners how he was able to lead 1-800-GOT-JUNK, College Pro Painters and dozens of other businesses through double digit growth. His style is candid and impassioned, and his guidance is pure gold. And, despite his repeated admonishment that success comes from focus, and not specific tactics, Herold has loaded this book with several dozen, proven gems that are huge hacks for growing your business quickly, and to last.
Regardless of whether you’re an entrepreneur, team leader or otherwise gainfully employed, Harold’s “focus on focus” (and his specific tactics to do so effectively) can add instant value to all our lives.
The Right Things
"Remember: it's not about measuring everything. It's about measuring and monitoring the right things."
There’s a dramatic difference between doing things right, and doing the right things. It’s easy for us to get caught up in doing what we’re doing with excellence. And there’s nothing wrong with that… so long as it’s not a procrastination mechanism.
Quality doesn’t matter if the outcome has no impact on your deliverables. How well you organize your filing cabinet is pretty much irrelevant. It feels good to get it done, but often times some of the smaller tasks – or some of the “less scary” tasks – are simply avoidance of doing what matters. A good question to ask yourself is, “how do I define success in regards to this activity?” and then, “how does achieving success impact my larger goals?”
If you find you’re stuck doing work that truly doesn’t matter, try implementing one of these two Insights in your work life.
"We'd take Focus Days once or twice a month."
While he was COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, Herold and the founder of the company, Brian Scudamore, used to take what they called “Focus Days”. Effectively, these were days away from the office; away from email, voicemail, meetings and drop ins. They were days to escape the “to-dos” of the business and reconnect with their higher objective. The key here was that they used to take these days monthly. This level of regularity allowed them to constantly stay connected to their larger picture goals which, in turn acted as a compass in determining the importance of a particular task, meeting, initiative, etc.
Would it be possible for you to take a focus day a month? Not all of us have the luxury of running companies (though some may argue that’s a debatable luxury!), but if we realize how much time we waste on non-essential tasks, we may start to see the value in escaping the office for a day a month, anyway. If it’s truly impossible for you to take a full day every month, think about starting smaller. What if you took a focus afternoon? Or focus lunch break?
Personally I believe there’s real value in taking a full day to disconnect from technology and re-connect with your vision, but anything is better than nothing. Take some time to pull the car over and consult the map on a regular basis. You may find the results surprise you.
You're human. Deal with it.
"It's often not about picking which projects to do but rather which projects not to do that will set you up for success."
As entrepreneurs (and busy people in general), we can often get spread thin; feeling like we have 12 hats to wear and a dozen responsibilities under each one. According to Herold (and he’s not alone in this thinking), one of the fastest ways to achieving greatness (however you define it) is through the word “no”.
I’m not talking about being difficult, but rather by understanding what is important and minimizing the rest. I find it’s a lot easier to say no to a new opportunity if you have a clear sense of what you’re objective is. One, it helps you easily identify the activities that forward that objective versus the time drains. Two, it also makes it easier to explain to someone (yes, even your boss at times!) why that activity doesn’t make sense, based on your goals.
As human beings, I think we have a natural desire to say yes to just about everything. We want to help people out and, frankly, it just feels good to dive into new endeavours. Starting things is easy. It’s the follow through and completion of worthwhile activities that separates you from the pack. Understand that you only have so many hours in a day, you do need to sleep occasionally, and that it’s not physically possible to be involved in everything. Say it graciously, and with tact, but learn to say no.
One great tool that Herold recommends for focus that I’ve started using (and LOVE) can be found at teamly.com. Effectively, Teamly is a “commitment limiter”. It’s a free, simple piece of software that only allows you to put 5 activities on the schedule for any given day. At first blush this might seem limiting, or even impractical, but in my two weeks experience with it, it’s actually incredibly practical. Between meetings, phone calls, urgent emails and so forth, we have sadly few precious hours in the day to complete important tasks. By writing out your top five priorities the day before, you have a constant guide for “what to do next”, and a powerful litmus test as to how good you are at actually following through on your commitments. Despite my best efforts, I have yet to complete my five tasks in any given day… which has had me really rethinking what my schedule allows. It’s powerful stuff, I highly recommend it.
What Art of the Start is to initiating a business, Double Double is to growing it. Rammed full of great takeaways and personal anecdotes, wrapped in a field guide for busy business leaders, Double Double is one I’m going to have within arm’s reach for years to come. I highly recommend this book.
March ’14 Addendum – One of the guys from the 1-800-Got-Junk marketing team reached out, complementing the piece and thanking me for the mention in this summary. They also asked if I could link to their SanFrancisco office info. Flattery will get you everywhere 😉