The Way I Work

Dear Jack,

Of the few magazine subscriptions I still read, Inc. remains one of my favorites, and it’s rare if I don’t read the entire magazine cover to cover.  I enjoy hearing the stories of how others are doing it, being motivated by reading different ideas, and educating myself on what’s going out outside my world of Lancaster county.

My favorite section of Inc., however, is “The Way I Work.”  This regular column highlights an entrepreneur, and is often written in first person.  It details their daily life.  And I find it extremely addicting to read.  I glean a fair amount of my daily habits by examples I’ve read about.  I’m not quite accomplished yet in life to be featured in Inc., (although it is a career goal), but it’s with this idea that I write this letter to you, titled The Way I Work.  It’s my hope that possibly you’ll learn some habits and apply them to your own life.

I usually wake up between 5 and 6 am.  Ideally, I want to be out running through Lancaster city for 30-40 minutes, as I feel best the rest of the day when I’m able to.  But to be honest, I’m often not disciplined enough, especially if our 15 month daughter didn’t sleep particularly well.  This is something I wish to get better at.

So, if I’m not up at the earlier side of the 5am – 6am schedule, I’ll opt out of running.  Spending time in the Bible and prayer and visualization is more important to me than the physical exercise.  I’ll quietly sneak downstairs, make some coffee, and hop in the shower.  I have a laminated sheet of my 2010 Goals/Resolutions (a distinct difference between the two) in the shower, and I review these and take a mental inventory of where I’m at with each one.

After getting my coffee fixed up, I sit down at our kitchen table, with only the overhead fan light on downstairs.  I try to make the house as quiet as possible with the rest of the family still asleep.  I then spend 45 minutes to an hour reading the Bible, journaling my thoughts and prayers, and visualizing my long term goals, both career and personal.  I keep my phone next to me to check the time, but I’m careful not to check any email.

Around 7am, I throw on my work clothes, head out to the car, and listen to NPR for my 30ish minute drive to work.  I start checking my work email at that point (only at red lights, of course).  Once I get into the office, I dig out my Weekly Planner, completed at the beginning of each week, and see what needs to be done that day – calls, tasks, follow ups – and who I need to accomplish them with.  I try to get all of my meeting preparation work done on Mondays, so I can be more free for meetings, calls, networking events, and other face to face opportunities during the week.  Once I’m at my desk, I ensure that I update LinkedIn, do some more visualization that’s more career specific, write two personal notes to colleagues or clients or prospects, check my RSS feeds, and select a new investment product to study.

My day at that point differs on any given day.  Client review meetings, new prospective client meetings, sales calls, article composing – there’s not a whole lot of overlap between the middle of my days.  Each day’s different, and I enjoy that.  One thing I don’t do is check my email instantly.  I have a note at the bottom of my email signature that I check it in the mornings, during lunch, and at the end of the day.  If something is urgent, I ask people to call me.  In the past, a lot of my energy and time was zapped by constantly checking and responding to email.  I’ve come to understand that email is like calling someone and hoping for a voicemail- it’s not urgent, but should be addressed at some point promptly.

Each week I try to meet with at least one of my “Proverbs 15.22 Crew” – which are essentially varying levels of personal mentors.  On Level 1, I have a professional mentor, a spiritual/personal mentor, and a hybrid mentor who knows just about everything in life.  On Level 2, I meet with a Mastermind group monthly, which is composed of five local professionals.  And Level 3 are local entrepreneurs or leaders who I highly respect, but may not know well, and I offer to take them out to lunch in exchange for picking their brain on what makes them tick.

Each day I try to review or learn something new from Kingdom Advisors training – whether it’s reviewing my previous notes, watching a new training video, or participating in a nation wide conference call.

At the end of each week I have a Weekly Wrap-up sheet, in which I essentially grade my week.  I’ve identified eight traits and habits I need to form to continue my success in this, and any, career – increasing knowledge, demonstrating courage, expressing enthusiasm, embracing humility, taking initiative, portraying confidence, proving integrity, and utilizing prioritization.  I answer a simple Yes or No if I’ve done each of these, and provide an example.  I then list my top 10 positive achievements for that week, as well as 2 processes/behaviors I need to modify, and end by journaling in a quarter page section any general thoughts.  This Wrap-up is incredibly valuable, as when I’m having a down week at work, I can look back and review all of the good things that has happened in other weeks (because we’re naturally inclined to forget them).

I know a lot of people talk about not worrying about work-home balance – but I do.  If I work 70+ hour weeks to provide extra income to help pay for my family’s goals, but do so at the expense of investing time and love into them – I’ve done them a disservice.  I monitor my hours closely, and if I have evening appointments during the week, I ensure that I take off early at some other point during the week so I can be home and with my family.  A lot of people disagree with me on this – but it’s one of the foundations of how I work.

I use the Strategic Coach’s Entrepreneurial Time System, which divides my days into Buffer, Focus, and Free days.  I won’t get into the specifics of these, but my Free days are Free from any work related activity, including checking my email, and even reading my Inc. magazine or other business related books.

That’s about it, Jack.  I actually get asked somewhat regularly what I do during the day as a financial planner, and now I have something written to refer people to.  I hope you’re able to glean some ideas that help you achieve your own goals.  Till next time, Jack.

Sincerely,
J.

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