Monday, February 17, 2014

Let It Go Until You’re Paid To Know

Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new. It mostly just happens naturally as I experience life. Because of that, on the go revelations can easily get lost and forgotten in the hustle and bustle of whatever else is going on at the time. So when I recognize an important learning moment, I like to name the lesson. But I don’t just give it any old boring name, oh no. I’m a marketing guy, so I try to give it a special name. Something catchy to make it more memorable. I’m going to share with you one of the most important lessons I have learned and the name I gave it is also the title of this post.

work juggler
Every business person I know is either born with or developed the ability to multi-task, both physically and mentally. Over time, the mental ability to multi-task tends to expand. It just becomes more natural and as a result you become more adept at juggling a lot of information in your mind. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t need to be laser focused on something specific, I can have anywhere from 5 - 15 different thoughts, ideas, plans, schedules, things to do, etc. rolling around in my head at any given moment. I believe having that ability is a big part of what has made me successful.

However, just like everything else, you have to manage that ability. By manage it I mean actively choose those multiple subjects you’re pondering. If you don’t do that and just let random thoughts pop in and out then it’s easy for unimportant things or things you have no control over to be a distraction and get in the way of productive thought.

As with most important lessons in life, I learned this one the hard way. My companies are all about helping other businesses with web design, branding, marketing, and various other services. We get a lot of leads and inquiries where several conversations typically need to occur with the business owner or manager before we ultimately get the job. After sending a proposal, I then personally call the client to see if they have any questions and, of course, try to close the deal.

I’m not a big fan of high-pressure sales tactics. So that phone call to the prospective client doesn’t always result in them accepting the proposal right away. However, in the past, that didn’t stop me from thinking about their project anyway. I enjoy my work. I enjoy the challenges and I enjoy the creative process it all requires. To be successful in just about all business endeavors you need to care about what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and why you’re doing it. Sometimes a project would be so interesting to me that I would care too much.

While waiting for the client to sign on, I would frequently start doing mental work for their project. Part of that mental multi-tasking ability I developed would be consumed with ideas for their website design or possible font styles for their new brand logo or tactics for their marketing plan. All of that is stuff that I enjoy and that’s why it would be taking up space in my mind even though the client hadn’t accepted our proposal yet.

exit sign
The wake up call that got me to stop doing that was a series of relatively minor mental lapses that led to disruptions in my life coupled with the feeling of foolishness after not getting a few of those jobs I spent so much time thinking about. One of those mental lapses caused me to miss my exit while driving to meet a long time, paying client and I didn’t realize it until I was almost 20 miles past it. I was very late and fortunately the guy didn’t hold it against me. Still it bothered me that I could have lost his business because of letting some other project I didn’t have yet distract me from the task at hand.

From that point on I decided that, during working hours, I was not going to let anything I wasn’t being paid to deal with creep into my multi-tasking stream of thoughts. No matter how interesting the project seemed or how much I cared about doing it, I was not going to give it any thought until the client signed the proposal agreement. I also made that a stated company policy at our next weekly production meeting because I knew that if I was doing it then surely others were doing it too.

But saying something and then actually doing it doesn’t always work out as easily you think it will. It’s hard to break long habits, especially mental ones. So I came up with this little saying, this little slogan to remember the lesson and help train myself and others around me to stop wasting brain power on work you don’t have yet.

Let It Go Until You’re Paid To Know        

It’s a surprisingly very effective slogan. Selectively blocking spontaneous thoughts preemptively is not possible, obviously. But you can train yourself to selectively wipe specific thoughts from  your conscious mind with repetition and word association if the words you use have an established meaning. When you find yourself thinking about something you shouldn’t, you simply zero in on the thought and repeat the words. You might have to say it out loud a few times to get it to stick. After a while it just becomes an internal thing. Almost like an eraser for your mental whiteboard.

hypnotic illusion
Let It Go Until You’re Paid To Know

After adopting this tactic I have found myself to be more productive and less forgetful of things that matter in the moment. The saying has also been adopted well around the office as a motivational tool to snap people out of stressing over things that are out of their control. It also rhymes so it’s fun to say. Who knows, after reading all of this you may somehow already be slightly conditioned to it. Give it a try.

Let It Go Until You’re Paid To Know