Up to Your Eyeballs in Work? Reconnect With What You're In It For.
When I was a kid, my dad had a sign in Latin in his office. A rough translation of its message would be “When you’re almost up to your armpits swimming around alligators, it’s difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp."
If you’re an entrepreneur with your own company (my dad had a dental practice), you probably can relate to that sign. When you're up to your eyeballs in deadlines and demands, it's easy to lose sight of why you started a business in the first place.
It probably wasn’t just to earn a living. Like the characters on HBO’s Silicon Valley, you probably wanted to change the world. It’s important to stay connected to that original sense of purpose.
Setting up regular routines for engaging in reflection can help you do so. As a business owner, you may have noticed that you spend a lot of time talking, either to yourself or others. Reflection is more about listening and noticing, reception as opposed to transmission.
Here are three simple routines for engaging in reflection that can help you reconnect with what you’re in it for:
1. Flex the gratitude muscle.
Some days everything seems to be hitting the fan at once. Or to put it another way, the alligators are chomping. Nothing appears to be going well.
But if you’re reading this post, I can say with a 99.99 percent degree of confidence that something is going right.
The fact that you have the resources to read this post tells me that. So even when the answer is not immediately obvious, get into the routine of asking yourself regularly, What’s going right and why am I grateful for that?
Flexing your gratitude muscle can reset your perspective, help you tune into what really matters and take the next steps needed to ensure it happens.
2. Use visuals to focus in.
A lot of the people I advise as a coach or whom I interviewed for my latest book, Overworked and Overwhelmed, keep visual focal points before them to help them remember what they’re in it for.
A focal point can be a quote, a picture of an inspirational person, artwork or really anything that helps someone push a mental reset button. This is allows an entrepreneur to briefly reflect on why he or she started a business in the first place.
One of the executives I interviewed keeps a small set of objects on his desk to remind him of important aspects of his life and work. He gets great return on his investment in taking five-minute periods twice a day to focus on those objects and reflect on his purpose.
3. Write things down.
Many people (myself included) find value in keeping a journal. I spend a few minutes each morning jotting down what's on my mind. I might recap what happened the day before, salute something that’s going right, express a concern that’s weighing on me or identify goals I have for my business.
Every so often, I’ll open up the journal to a random spot and flip through 10 or 20 pages. Usually what I notice is that whatever I was worrying about back then has been resolved in some way.
The recurring lesson for me is that the small stuff that feels like alligators chomping at me every day wasn’t worth worrying about. When things get crazy, this notion helps me keep my perspective and remember what I’m in it for.
The end of one year and the beginning of another is a great time to start reconnecting with what matters.