I’ve recently bought a new laptop. Nothing momentous in that perhaps, but two things stand out for me.
Number one. This is the first laptop for a long time that I’ve bought and have to support myself with. Working in a corporate environment I’d become used to having a support team around me that worries about all those kind of things. Being outside that shelter means sorting tech (and other) stuff out myself.
This is something I was unprepared for, moving out of the safe environment of a large organization into our own small business. Intellectually, I knew the teams wouldn’t be there, but I hadn’t really worked out what that would feel like. Now we have to do everything for ourselves. It isn’t necessarily difficult but it does take time – not so much the doing, but the working out how to do it in the first place.
The turning point for us was this week when we realized/remembered that we don’t need to do it all ourselves. There are plenty of people around us who can help – some are our friends, who are only too happy to lend a hand; others are what you might call ‘professional help’ where we pay for their services. Both are a godsend.
And they also represent incredible value for us! It can be all too easy to get caught in the thinking trap of ‘I can’t afford it’. The question we need to ask is, can we afford not to? If the time we free up allows us to do something more profitable instead – deliver services, find customers, develop products – then it should be a no-brainer. In those circumstances, it’s an investment not a cost.
Going back to my laptop, the second stand out is that the keyboard is ‘wrong’. When I say wrong, I mean the keys are in the wrong place – or at least in the ‘wrong’ order.
Of course, they’re not wrong. They’re just different. I’d actually never realized that US and UK keyboards have some subtle, but still important differences between them. For example, the @ key is in a completely different place – kind of important in our digital age! And don’t get me started on the swapping of the Delete and Backspace keys… Let’s just say, much time has been wasted by that particular change!
These differences wouldn’t be so much of a problem if I hadn’t learned to touch type when I was a student. If I was looking at the keys, I would know where to find them. But I’ve spent so many years, touch typing that unlearning the habit is tricky. A skill I was good at in one environment and served me well, is now causing me problems in my new world. Or to be more accurate, it’s not the skill that’s the problem but my habit-formed use of it.
How often does that happen to us? We get used to things, we do them out of habit, without thinking, we don’t notice that the world has changed around us. We take things for granted. We stop learning.
That’s why – in business, as in life – it’s important to take time out to stand back and look around. Are we still heading in the right direction? Do our strategies still work? Do we need to do all the things we’re doing? Are they helping or hurting us? Would something different or new be better?
These are essential questions to ask but often we’re too busy doing to find time for them. To me, this is what working on the business not just in the business is really all about.
It’s important we get into the discipline of taking time to stand back and think. I’m doing this on a personal basis through a weekly accountability call with a colleague coach. For the business, we have calendared an hour each week to look back, evaluate and plan ahead. It’s amazing the difference it is making for us. Instead of being something extra, something else we have to do, it’s actually saving us time and effort.
Another great return on investment!