That Ben Franklin – he was one smart chap. Franklin invented bifocals, streetlights, swim fins (yes, swim fins) and electricity. As if that wasn’t enough, Big Ben was willing to prove his worth by flying a kite with a key on it during a lightning storm. Talk about scrappy?
As entrepreneurs and creators, there are a lot of lessons to learn from Ben Franklin. One that stands out here at The Disciplined Entrepreneur is Big Ben’s ability to balance creativity with intense planning. His quote, like his creative genius, was no joke:
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
As a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies, I noticed most of my clients were excellent when it came to long-term planning.
Twenty-year BHAG? You bet.
Five-Year Strategic Plan? Check.
One-Year Operating Budget? You better believe it…
Start-ups are no different. You create detailed plans that feed investor sharks and motivate your team. Armed with one, three, and five-year plans that invariably show the infamous hockey-stick growth, start-up leaders create a vision and a direction for what the company will become – key for any business success.
I’ve seen both big businesses & start-ups “get it” when it comes to long-term planning. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen that most professionals are unequivocally terrible when it comes to planning on a daily and weekly basis.
All too often I see smart people fail to plan and prepare for meetings. People concede their day-to-day focus by jamming too many meetings in a day, drifting into the distraction that is the internet, spending too many hours with the inbox, and letting the urgent get in the way of the important.
If you’re ready to take back your day, it’s time to be more thoughtful in terms of how you manage each day. Here’s how to jump-start your productivity right now:
1) Write the Email Before the Meeting.
Have an important meeting that’s likely to require follow-up? Go ahead and write the follow-up email BEFORE the meeting. This simple practice will force you to clarify your perspective and increase focus during your meeting. Whether your meeting is a sales call, a feedback session with an employee, or a discussion with an investor – take the time before the meeting to compose the email.
This process allows you to visualize success in the meeting and it’s particularly important you take the time to do this for tough conversations, like when you’re sharing areas for improvement with someone on your team. Athletes visualize success on the playing field; disciplined entrepreneurs prepare and refine their talking points before meetings.
2) Never schedule a meeting without scheduling time to prepare.
For leaders in any business, the single most valuable asset we own is our time, so think through every meeting before they appear on your calendar. Anything that makes it through your filter and onto your calendar is worthy of adequate preparation.
As a starting point, block off 30 minutes of prep time for every meeting you have on your calendar. Use the 30 minutes to document your personal objectives for the meeting, the stated meeting objectives, potential questions and responses, plus one new point of connection between you and each person in the meeting.