Most of us go to work each Monday, do our jobs as best we can and wrap up our Fridays by looking forward to the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to my weekends, but I truly look forward to my Mondays. Why? Because I get to do two things I truly enjoy. First, I get to carve out a career path only limited by my imagination and second, I get to lead a team that analyzes and comments on the Order-to-Cash space. Doing both is wonderful and I find Accounts Receivable, Invoicing and Cash Application fascinating, but it wouldn’t be worth doing if I didn’t employ a strategy that ensures I do it well. Enjoying what I do is not enough. I must do it well, make sure it’s sustainable and enable others to benefit. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done.
Many of us work hard but we often don’t work intelligently. It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia, regardless of your position. When that happens, the job ends up driving us rather than us driving it. When this happening, there are things we can do about it. Following are 5 practices leaders must do each week to help bring out their inner superstar.
- Set aside at least 30 minutes every Monday morning to plan your week
It doesn’t take much time to plan the week ahead; about 30 minutes is usually sufficient. I do my planning Sunday evening so I can hit the ground running the next morning. Many of us don’t do this and we sometimes wonder where we’ll find the 30 minutes. It’s a challenge transitioning from the weekend, especially when you’re getting kids off to school and getting into the right frame of mind to begin another work week. The unfortunate byproduct of not spending 30 minutes to plan is the realization that you’ve likely wasted 5 to 10 times that amount of time throughout the week by not having a plan. I’m not suggesting you’ve spent 5 to 10 hours watching cat videos on YouTube, but you’ve likely involved yourself in something that was not on your list of things you needed to accomplish during the week. This is usually the case when, at the end of the week, we realize we’ve been busy but we didn’t accomplish nearly all the things we wanted to.
I happen to be a big fan of Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My guess is that most leaders have read it, but if you have not or if you aspire to be a leader, reading this book should help drive you to plan more and to spend time on those things that are worthwhile and important rather than those things that are simply time consuming. In addition to the Covey book, I highly recommend leaders incorporate an easy-to-use, all-purpose planning tool. I happen to use several, but the one I use more than anything else to help me plan and keep track of the things I must do is Toodledo. You can use it on your smartphone, you tablet or computer.
- Work on the difficult things before you work on the enjoyable things
When you start planning your work and working your plan, there is a temptation to put off those things we don’t want to do. It’s so easy to spend time on things that bring us joy and make us feel good and procrastinate on those things that are tedious or difficult to work through. Nevertheless, those difficult things must be done. I have incorporated the “work on the difficult stuff first” approach over the last few years and find that other leaders who are or want to be successful are doing the same thing. When we work on those difficult things first, we can reward ourselves later with those things we enjoy. Not only will you end up being very productive through the course of your day, you’ll find you’ve gotten so much more accomplished at the end of the week. This will likely boost your confidence and motivate you to look for more difficult things to take on. During the day, I may work on 4 or 5 things that are very difficult before I get to that truly enjoyable thing. It helps me to be more productive than I have any right to be and helps me to end my Fridays on a very positive note.
- Schedule time to think outside the box
Planning and doing the difficult things first are important, but the most productive time I spend is usually when I’m not working at all. At least once a week, I try to spend an hour or two simply “thinking.” What I mean by this is I meditate (or sometimes pray) about those things that need a solution but may require an approach that is somewhat unorthodox. I have a mental white board where I let my imagination run wild, thinking about solutions that may have been prompted by a meeting, a television show, working out or simply daydreaming. I’ve had ideas and solutions pop into my head simply because I’ve cultivated the terrain in my mind and allow certain things to germinate.
When trying to solve problems or simply find a more efficient or cost-effective way to do things, thinking outside the box (or daydreaming or praying) can uncover a host of possibilities that allow us to regularly operate outside our comfort zone.
- Schedule 2 hours per week to immerse yourself in the latest technology or industry trends.
As technology becomes more advanced, leaders shouldn’t leave the understanding of that technology to the millennials. You don’t have to be the resident expert of a particular technology, but it is very helpful to be knowledgeable about topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning, e-Invoicing, etc. Your immersion into technology and trends can simply be from reading a book, the latest industry publication (I prefer Wired and Inc.), picking someone’s brain or even seeing a movie (I love the film Ex Machina, which tells you a little about Artificial Intelligence but unveils more about what a Touring Test is). But, be careful; you don’t want to spend all your immersion time in the theater.
Since the goal here is not to be the resident expert, simply knowing about what’s possible allows you to think outside the box more often (see practice number 3).
- Set the tone for yourself and your staff by sharing an inspirational or meaningful quote every Monday
Some may find relying on inspirational quotes to be corny or passé. I, on the other hand, find them very helpful, as they clearly articulate the mindset successful leaders have had when discovering a breakthrough. A quote you share may be about a challenging week ahead or acknowledgement of a recently achieved milestone. Either way, regularly sharing a meaningful and positive quote helps set expectations for the balance of the week. A great book to have at your disposal is The Daily Book of Positive Quotations by Linda Picone. The key in using quotations is to use them strategically. Overuse them and your staff will may out. Not using them enough and your staff may think it’s out of character for you. Finding the right balance for you and your team may take time, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
Most of us want to be smarter, more productive and more effective. By pushing the envelope and incorporating these practices every week, we can learn to be superstars. It’s worth stating that this is not a definitive list by any means, but these practices have helped me transform my ability to lead and get things done. If there are things you’ve incorporated into your week that have transformed your performance, please share them.
Ernie Martin is Founder and Managing Director of Receivable Savvy. He brings over 25 years of experience in financial supply chain management, marketing and communications and draws upon his extensive experience to share knowledge and best practices with AR professionals. His resume also boasts time at several well-known brands and companies such as Tungsten Network, Delta Airlines, CIGNA Healthcare and Georgia Pacific as well as a number of years as an independent consultant.