Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Moving out of your Comfort Zone to Advance Business

by Elizabeth Symington

It’s up to you to reflect on your productivity and how to enhance it since you call the shots. Think about your to-do list. Maybe it’s super long with lots of descriptive notes, or perhaps you don’t feel the need to make one. Is the to-do list typed up systematically in a spreadsheet or is it handwritten with colorful markers? How often do you find yourself having completed all of the “fun” tasks and stuck with the daunting one? Using Bernice McCarthy’s 4MAT for learning style I realized why I’ve been avoiding certain tasks and how that has held back my business.

The 4MAT learning style is a cycle where knowledge is acquired and retained through practical application. Each person naturally leans to one of the four learning quadrants: 1) establishing relationships, 2) understanding the essence, 3) searching for usefulness, and 4) creating personal adaptations and integrations.

Quadrant 1 individuals are intuitive people who thrive at talking and listening. They ask “why” this new knowledge is important and use their senses and past experiences to find that answer.

Quadrant 2 folks love to get the facts straight from the experts by attending lectures, watching videos, and reading. They love logic, charts and details. When learning things they question “what” is this new information?

Quadrant 3 people are also detail oriented but with a focus on “how does this work?” They like to practice, hypothesize and master practical life skills as fast as possible.

Quadrant 4 is made up of intuitive people who take the new found knowledge and ask “what if?” to adapt it to their lives. They are also flexible, focused on innovation and act on their dreams.

Applying Each Quadrants Preference of Tasks to the To-Do List:

Figuring out which quadrant you love to dwell in can help you ascertain how much time you spend on tasks of that genre and if the duties in the other quadrants are being neglected. I’m a diehard quadrant 3 since I adore taking information, applying it to my life and practicing it until mastery.

In relation to the to-do list, I tend to put off making phone calls since I prefer to stick to facts and objects and “getting things done,” instead of building relationships which is what quadrant 1 people love. Knowing that I put off phone calls since they “waste time,” I write on the to-do list an estimate of how long each call will take. This puts things into perspective, which usually adds up to being on the phone five minutes at a time, even though it feels like hours. It is also important to partake in small talk since quadrant one people would feel unloved if I called them and got straight to business.

The quadrant 2 tasks that I greatly love and adore are being systematic and organized with a fascination and thirst for facts. The only difference is that as a quadrant 3 person I prefer to take that information and put it to use in my life. As far as the to-do list is concerned quadrant 2 duties can include researching local government laws, new technology, and different business entities without regard to applying the information to your business. Being a quadrant 3 person, I occasionally feel overwhelmed with researching since the limitless amount of facts and details can give me “analysis paralysis.” This is where decision making is delayed until all of the facts have been investigated and analyzed. Knowing this, I give myself a time limit on when a decision needs to be made or have someone else do the research for me.

When writing this article I attacked it like a quadrant 3 person by focusing on a topic of relevance for business owners and artists. After brainstorming for a practical topic, I had to refamiliarlize myself with About Teaching, 4MAT in the Classroom by Bernice McCarthy, because it had been a few years since I read it. Instead of a typed outline, which I normally do, I drew a visual outline of a diagram of the learning cycle and began writing a rough draft for the article.

My tendency as a quadrant 3 person is to move straight to mastery, even before it’s time, so rough drafts are very difficult for me to write. I’d rather write the article perfectly the first time, but this approach can take a very long time and not have the best results. On my to-do list it says to write “an imperfect rough draft.” Being a stickler for rules, this helps me to write more freely and not worry about perfect formatting or sentence structure. I then let the article sit for about a day and tweaked it before handing it off to be proofread.

Quadrant 4 tasks on the to-do list can include how to adapt new found information for your business, like altering a production process that you heard from a friend. I shy away from quadrant 4 tasks since they often have unpredictable outcomes, making them riskier. In order to encourage myself to do these much needed tasks, I remind myself this is where progress happens and that “proud” feelings result when completing something scary.

Strategies for Finishing the Not-So-Fun-Tasks:

Aim for a balance of the quadrants; that way there will be fewer things on the to-do list you'll want to avoid. Until you reach this balance, acknowledge there is nothing wrong with preferring particular tasks and focus on solutions to complete the things you put off. Some solutions are:

• Do the least favorite task first to get it over with (like presenting first in speech class).

• Make it into a game by making the to-do list into a bingo card. When you have a bingo give yourself a reward! Or set a time limit or date as to when the project has to be done. Call up a friend and bet them you’ll get a specific amount of things done in 3 hours or you’ll owe them $20.

• Contract out or delegate to an employee.

• Partner up with someone to make the experience more enjoyable and to help with motivation.

• Imagine the sense of accomplishment and other rewards for finishing this daunting or unenjoyable task

Recognizing Limitations to Break New Ground

The breakthrough mentioned earlier was in relation to over planning which prevented me from taking the next step in running my first business. For the past nine years I have planned many businesses, but wanted to be completely prepared before opening the doors. I became a thorough planner, but no businesses were ever opened.

True to being a 3rd quadrant person, I prepared to be an owner by attending many seminars, taking classes, researching online and reading many books. Everything was planned and practiced, but it was the fear of not having a controlled outcome that held me back.

I was also stymied about not knowing where to find the legal forms for opening a business. The task felt overwhelming since there were lots of unfamiliar terms. It seemed like it would take hours to find the correct forms. Then a few days before this deadline, a friend surprised me by finding the two forms I needed to open a business. His encouragement and leading the way through the government sites helped me to move past the daunting details and into owning a business.

Acknowledging what you love to do and not do can speed up your productivity and reduce your stress. Best of luck with analyzing and assessing your productivity!

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