All successful business people have two things in common: They knew where they wanted to go, and they knew how to get there. When asked how they achieved success in their businesses, their answers are fairly consistent: "I always wanted to have my own shop." "This was my dream since my first day as a painter." "I knew how a good facility should run, and I wanted to do it right." "When things got tough, I just made up my mind to work it out."
They all had pictures in their minds of what they wanted, and they resolved to do whatever was necessary to make the picture happen. Whether they realized it or not, they were setting goals and making plans.
Before I discuss how to achieve a balanced work and home life, I’m going to provide an overview of goal setting and planning and put them in perspective as time-management tools.
Knowing where you want to go is called "goal setting." Knowing how to get there is called "planning." And both activities are required for effective time management.
• Goal Setting — I’m going to ask you to change one paradigm to help you be more successful when goal setting: A goal is what you want, not something you do. It’s the end result, an accomplishment, an achievement. A goal is where you want to be or something you want to have. For example, your goal could be to have a shop that has twice the floor space you currently have. Or your goal could be to have motivated and cooperative employees. Those are final objectives — not things you do.
You can’t "do" a goal; therefore, you need a plan to achieve that goal. Having a goal without a corresponding plan to achieve it is like having a dream written on a piece of paper.
But if you can’t "do" a goal, what can you do? You can do activities.
• Planning — Effective planning means identifying those activities that will allow you to achieve your goals. In the business world, your goal may be to have competent and motivated employees. The plan to achieve this goal needs to include establishing effective interviewing and hiring policies, practicing effective coaching skills and providing effective training opportunities. For your family goals, you may want to have a successful marriage. The plan must identify those activities that will produce a successful marriage, such as spending time with your spouse, listening to his or her points of view, offering comfort and support, and remembering birthdays and anniversaries.
You cannot manage time! Time marches on at 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day — whether you try to manage it or not. Hundreds of books have been written about time management, and still we all struggle. But don’t give up. Though you can’t manage time, you can manage the one thing that really counts: your behavior.
You have clear choices about how you spend your time, but how do you know when your behavior is appropriate? How do you know you’re spending your time wisely? There’s only one way to know: You must ask yourself, "Is my behavior helping me achieve my goals?" Without goals, you don’t know if your behavior is appropriate. In fact, without goals, any behavior is OK because it really doesn’t matter what you do. To steal a line from Alice in Wonderland, "If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which road you take. If you walk long enough, you’ll get somewhere."
Now do you see why you need goals and plans?
Goals are used as criteria so you can determine whether your behavior (plans and activities) is productive. I’m suggesting that behavior, by itself, is neither productive nor non-productive. It can only be deemed constructive when it’s measured against your goals. If your activity allows you to achieve your goals, it’s productive. If it doesn’t help you attain your goals, it’s non-productive.
Strive for Balance
It’s very important to have goals for all areas of your life, not just for business. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to have a balanced life. Imagine riding down the road in one of the vehicles that just came out of your shop. The body work and paint are perfect; everything has been fixed to pre-accident condition or better, yet you’re experiencing a rough ride. You pull over and look at the tires. There’s a large bulge on one of them, and every time that bulge hits the road, the car bumps around. Or perhaps the tire isn’t balanced properly on the wheel.
It’s the same with life. Your life is out of balance if you spend too much time doing one activity — like working. It’s the equivalent of having a tire that’s out of round or unbalanced. It won’t roll smoothly. But you can’t blame the road or your vehicle. Likewise, don’t blame your employees, your friends or your family if your life is out of sync.
If you want a smooth ride and a balanced life, I suggest you set goals in four major areas: business, relationships, personal and spiritual.
• Business goals — Business goals are critical because the revenue and income derived from a successful business allow you to achieve the other goals for your life. There’s nothing wrong with making money, even a lot of money, as long as you keep your life in perspective.
Your business goals should include:
— Quality: providing a quality product or service.
— Speed: delivering the product or service on time or sooner.
— Service: providing a quality product on time or sooner, as well as courteously and professionally.
— Innovation: making suggestions and recommendations beyond just fixing the vehicle.
— Flexibility: using common sense and walking in the customers’ shoes (both the insurance company’s and the vehicle owner’s).
• Relationship goals — I don’t subscribe to the adage that "whoever has the most toys when he dies is the winner." I subscribe to the theory that revenue – expenses = residual. All of your activities should have a positive residual value.
Life can be represented by the way you keep your books at the shop. At work, revenue – expenses = profit. At home, revenue – expenses = a happy marriage or a quality relationship with your significant other or children.
Relationship goals are critical if you want to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with people you love and care about. Your relationship goals should include:
— A meaningful relationship with your spouse or significant other.
— A meaningful relationship with your children.
— A meaningful relationship with your relatives (parents, grandparents, siblings).
— A meaningful relationship with your friends.
I doubt if you’d hear someone on his death bed say, "I wish I would’ve spent more time at the office."
When people look back on those things that really matter in their lives, they usually count the relationships they’ve created with their loved ones at the top of the list. The times we cherish most are the emotional relationships and joy that come from our family and friends.
Why do you work so hard? Why do you spend so much time at the shop? Is it just for yourself? I doubt it. Think of the other people who are effected by your long work hours, and resolve to share some of your time with them. Make some deposits in those relationships. Like the old Coca-Cola commercial reminded us, "No deposit, no return."
• Personal goals — Personal goals are critical for your own development. Health and exercise are the most obvious goals and the ones your doctor lectures you about the most. (You don’t need another lecture from me.) We all know we should eat right and exercise — but there’s more.
What about other goals like reading, enjoying hobbies, listening to music, hunting, fishing, golfing or even just watching television? These are important because you need time just for you. They have nothing to do with your business or your other relationships. They simply provide a sense of personal satisfaction or pleasure. You don’t have to explain or justify these goals to anyone else.
Personal goals and activities are necessary because they provide a sense of renewal, personal fulfillment, relaxation or just plain fun. You don’t even have to keep score unless you want to because it’s just about you. You make up all the rules. Perhaps the most liberating part of having personal goals is that there don’t have to be rules.
• Spiritual goals — Spiritual goals are significant in my life. I don’t know how or why certain things happen, and I don’t pretend to understand them. I believe in grace and faith. To me, grace is something that happens when I know I couldn’t have done it myself (like dealing with that irate customer I wanted to strangle). Faith is about not being able to explain something but still believing in it. For me, there’s comfort in believing there’s something more important than my business, myself or even other relationships.
Spiritual goals allow me to give thanks when bad things happen. I believe things happen for the ultimate good and that we can learn lessons from our failures. And my experience indicates I’ll be disappointed if I depend entirely on human interactions for my sense of fulfillment. Spiritual goals allow me to start every day with "please" and end every day with "thank you."
Plan of Attack
I want to share with you the process I use to incorporate goals and plans for pursuing a balanced life:
1. On Sunday evening, I list all my weekly goals, making sure I choose at least one goal from the four major areas of my life: business, relationships, personal and spiritual. This is what keeps the wheel balanced.
2. I go to my day planner and I block out time for those goals. I actually write the goals in the spaces I blocked out.
3. Next, I think about the activities I’ll have to do to achieve those goals.
4. I determine what activity needs to be done first, just like project management, and prioritize it.
5. I write the activity or activities next to the goals in my day planner.
When I look at my day planner, I see my goals listed and right beside those goals I see activities. That information provides the basic foundation for leading a balanced life. I know where I want to go (goal) and how to get there (activity). The key is listing each goal you want and planning the time for the activities required to achieve it.
Having a system that creates balance in your life is worth working for. If you don’t have a system in place now, try this one. It’s simple yet effective. It works for me, and I have a feeling it will work for you.
I also recommend two books on this subject that will show you more ways to achieve a balanced and productive life: "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and "Putting First Things First." Both are written by Stephen Covey, and both have excellent information about effective goal setting and planning.
If leading a balanced life is one of your goals, the system I’ve outlined and the information in these books will help you get there. You can’t manage time — it ticks away 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day no matter what. But by balancing all aspects of your life, you can learn to put that time to good use.
Writer Beau Hamilton founded Hamilton Consulting, Inc. in 1984, and his automotive clients include collision and mechanical repair facilities, new-car dealerships, automotive recyclers and more. Hamilton conducts seminars and training programs throughout the United States and Canada. For more information, contact Hamilton at (800) 821-1115.