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8 Steps to Achieving Your Goals

Please kick me if you ever hear me say: “I’m too busy!”

The other day, I caught myself complaining about my schedule, which has been more full than usual lately. Instead if complaining and raising anxiety levels, I should have used my time crafting a better management plan for my time, removing waste and items with little ROI.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people telling me, “I’m too busy…”. I’ve always said, telling people (complaining about) how busy you are is a fantastic way to market yourself as a poor time manager. Why would you want to do that? And what exactly do you do with your time that blocks you from sparing 15 minutes of your time? I would hope that they actually mean that they are just not interested in the proposed project/request because they have other priorities and commitments.

When I meet new people and get asked that same exciting question; “where do you work?” (A question I very much despise – try replacing this with: “How do you spend most of your time?”), I usually respond: I don’t work, but this is how I spend my time…. Often people ask me how I’m able to get so much done. I wanted to share “my secrets”, which unfortunately aren’t actually secrets at all…

An e-mail exchange with a dear friend and fellow entrepreneur a couple of weeks ago got me thinking about the difference between staying focused and poor time management skills. I told this person that I would not be able to attend an upcoming networking event he invited me to because I was unable to draw the line between my business objectives and my time spent at the event. I told him that my main focus currently was: focus! He said he was concerned about my schedule being too busy. I explained to him my priorities based on my business objectives and he then was able to appreciate my declining the invitation. He appreciated how I respected my own time and others’ time and how this positions me better to reach my targets.

When I was a student, a mentor and I had a discussion on time management. He told me, “Esha, if you want something to get done, ask a busy person”. Honoring multiple commitments requires prioritizing, focus, and a strong grasp of your strengths and weaknesses. A busy person should have all of these mastered and knows how to get things done!

I recently was telling someone that I practice meditative activities daily. She said: “Wow, I wish I had the time to do that, you’re so lucky.” In reality, she chooses not to make time for meditation… she also implies I have all the time in the world, when in reality, she probably has more free-time than me. She wishes she had time to meditate, but doesn’t take action to make it happen. Perhaps she doesn’t need to, she doesn’t realize the benefits it could have in her life, or she’s just slothful. We have the ability to choose how we spend our time. We can make time for anything, if we really wanted to. But the moral of this story is: we need to align our high-level objectives with our actions. Currently my top two objectives are (without going into detail): business growth (sales) for my start-up and being happy. To help me achieve my objectives, some of tactics involve: measuring monetary ROI on all business events I attend, investing in personal health (meditation, diet, weird hobbies to diversify my interests, surround myself with good, like-minded people) to be in top-form for my business and happy/satisfied overall.

 

Let’s get started. Let’s look at how we can all start managing our time better to achieve anything we want.

#1  Make two columns on a piece of paper. List what you do on a daily basis in the first column, the activities that take up most of your time. In the second column, list the outcome (your return).

#2 Define your goals, short-term (something you want to achieve over the next two years), and long-term (2-10 years). When setting goals, be ambitious, keep your standards high, but be realistic. Most importantly, ensure that you goals are aligned with your objectives. Ask yourself, why do I want to achieve this? Will achieve x make me happy five years from now?

In my office, I have a reminder, nothing fancy:

If you don’t know what your goals are, how will you achieve them?

Goal: ____

N = _x_ ( x is the length of time you need to achieve your goal)

#3 Most people stop there. This has been one of my mistakes. When I was younger, I set many ambitious goals for myself, many would be impressed when I talked about them, this made me feel like I was on the right track. I thought that my life would magically follow some invisible path that would guide me to achieving my goals. I forgot to construct the path. I sometimes still fail at this, for example, as silly as this sounds, I have overlooked scheduling eating lunch in my schedule, which has adversely impacted productivity and overall happiness.

The path is your plan. Of course things won’t go perfectly as planned and it’s important to remain open to new opportunities. The HOW is the most important piece to this process, it’s the most challenging and a step that most people don’t think about. It’s especially important if you’re like me, I’m a typical entrepreneur – see opportunities everywhere and a creative mind. For those that work 9-5 jobs, it’s easy to get caught up in our day-to-day activities; we get stuck in a rut and don’t even realize it. I found the only way to get out of it was to quit my 9-5 job – it was too much of a distraction. Another challenge is, we may keep moving on from one thing to the next without getting much done.

Go back to the sheet of paper from step 1, list the tasks you should be doing to get to your goal – break-down the big stuff into small pieces. (Feel free to e-mail me for more info on this).

#4 Prioritize and set time commitments for each activity that will lead you to your goals. The amount of time we put into something does not necessarily reflect the outcome. The trick is to work smarter. Multi-tasking is not the answer; it’s actually been proven to be counter-productive. The first step in improving time management is looking into how we spend our time, and the outcome of our input. Then, re-organizing how we spend our time using a daily scheduling system that will allow you to evaluate the ROI on each commitment and a to-do list.

How to measure ROI? ROI or return on investment is the return from the time you invest. The return will be aligned with your goals and ultimately your objectives. It does not necessary have to be monetary return, it can be anything from “achieving a clear, calm mind”, “strengthening your relationship with your sister” – it depends on your objectives and goals. Go back to the piece of paper you’ve marked you goals down on and list the necessary outcomes of your activities. Then be able to evaluate on a scale of 1-10 the impact of each item – this will help you prioritize.

#5 Stay focused. This is not easy! Reaching new places requires you to develop new habits, which it can be as difficult as quitting smoking. It’s easy to modify your path, but you need to accept you will not fulfill your objectives without action and hard work. There are no other secrets other than discipline.

#6 Diversify your interests or more commonly recognized as keep a “work-life balance”. I would recommend participating in unique activities to keep a balance and diversify your interests and how you use your brain power. Time spent away from your goals can allow you develop new skills and perspectives to achieve more. For example, I recently picked up Argentine Tango, ballroom dance, photography, and horse-back riding – these activities involve me to wake-up a side of my brain that doesn’t get to be used as often in the office, meet new types of people, give me new perspectives, learn more about my own strengths and weaknesses, and keep stress/anxiety levels in control.

#7 Reflect. I know some people who journal every day. I set aside time at the beginning of the day, every day to reflect on the day before, be thankful for another opportunity to carpe diem and reflect on how I can make this day better. I also look at my productivity at the end of each week which dictates how I spend my week-ends (a busy week = relaxing, work-free week-end, a less busy week = a busy week-end!).

Take a step back, smell the roses!

#8 Update your plan. This step is based on your feelings during your reflection. this entire self-improvement exercise can offer many new opportunities. As a result, you’ll be able to better your plan and position yourself in a positive place surrounded by good things (as cheesy as that may sound) – at this point, it’s important to be open and adaptable. Being too rigid in following your plan can easily result in missing out on seeing opportunities presented to you. I find the biggest challenge finding the balance between focus and evaluating different opportunities that are presented to me on a daily basis. That’s what makes this so fascinating, this process requires constant experimenting and dedication to find the most healthy recipe for your mind and soul.

This may look overly comprehensive and a little overwhelming the first time you look at it, but these are just guidelines – develop your own list, one that works for you. Let me know how it goes!

Until next time, cheers, Esha

Copyright © Esha Abrol. Canada. November 2012

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The Cost of Poor Customer Service: Is Healthcare in Canada really Free?

After complaining and complaining even more about the poor service and advice I continuously receive from my family healthcare practitioner, I decided to do a little more research to find out why and try to explore opportunities on how to fix it!

I was quite astounded with what I found. Wanted to share my research findings and my thoughts:

Firstly, let’s look at how the compensation model for doctors works:

According to The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, the average family doctor makes $351,000/year. The compensation model is quite interesting. Forty-five (45%) percent of doctors (I believe this is all family doctors) are compensated by a fee-for-service model. Plain and simple, they make $25 per visit, regardless of how long the visit is; they also can make money through receiving a cut from referrals.

A closer look at the compensation model vs. the average annual compensation

Let’s use the average compensation number, rounded to $350,000 and dig deeper on what it takes to achieve this amount:

1) Let’s say approximately 15% of total compensation came from referrals. So, $50,000 of the total $350,000, leaving $300,000 to earn from patient visits

2) If they make $25/visit, they need 12,000 visits per year to reach $300,000
3) After vacation time, after 49 working weeks per year, working five days a week, a doctor would have to see app 245 patients a week, or 49 a day!

Based on these numbers, a doctor in Ontario needs to see an average of 49 clients per day to achieve the average compensation amount of $300,000.

No wonder I am always rushed out of the doctor’s office, no wonder it’s always full, no wonder he never does any research or provides alternatives, he doesn’t have the time!

The Improvement Opportunity
My no means do I want to sound ungrateful, I am a proud Canadian, and proud of the idea of a free healthcare system. However, there are some serious issues that need to be addressed. Because we don’t directly pay, I don’t believe that means we should be OK with receiving terrible service. Poor service from your healthcare practitioner and poor service from a cashier at Wal-mart are both irritating. However, one of them can possibly cost you your life, cause a unhealthy society, and ultimately cost the healthcare system more.

Healthcare practitioners play a vital role in the condition of our health, well-being, our futures, and our overall society. The fact that they are given hopes of a promising career, which will guarantee financial stability, seems to have led to doctors offices to over-commit to the number of patients they see to meet their sales targets, which is adversely affecting us all. They are left with little or no time to do research, talk to us to get to ensure the correct diagnosis is being recommended, speak to us about alternative medicine, perhaps even refer us to natural remedies because there’s no financial incentive in it for them. This is just scary! This is leading to misguided or the wrong diagnosis and confusion for the patient on what in fact is good for their health and what isn’t. I’ve heard many people tell me about medication they take, including medication with serious, long-term side-effects, for minor health issues. When I ask them, “why?” Their response, “My doctor recommended it.”

Aren’t we supposed to be able to trust our doctors? Aren’t healthcare practitioners supposed to help prevent illness, not just treat them? This requires more time and research, with the current compensation model, doctors may feel pressure to meet their targets, they may find it challenging to maintain the work-life balance, which is causing them to rush through seeing as many patients, causing society more harm than good!

The Ministry of Health needs to step in to introduce a metric in the compensation model that will measure the quality of service and delivery being offered.

What I did about it
I recently gave up on my family doctor for regular visits and started to see a naturopathic doctor. She reminded me of the importance of doctors and healthcare. She exceeds my expectations every time, goes out of her way to look for alternatives for me, and sends me e-mails messages, following up with me. Now, she may be an exception because of her genuine passion for her work, but my intention is to illustrate the difference and for you to imagine how our province would be with more doctors like her. The key difference: caring!
I think that there are many health practitioners that are still passionate about their vital role in saving lives and, more importantly preventing harm. They are not recognized enough for what they do. I want take this opportunity to thank them for what they do, not just for their individual patients, but for society and our world. They are truly inspiring people, and wonderful examples for entrepreneurs to emulate in terms of quality of customer service and doing your job to contribute to the common good of humankind, and think about how it impacts the world.

Copyright © Esha Abrol. Canada. September 2012

Prices, Promotions and… Emotions

I tweeted this link (“Why JCPenney’s ‘No More Coupons’ Experiment Is Failing”) a few weeks ago. It’s still on my mind, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it.

In a nutshell, JCPenney wanted to be fair with their customers by abandoning the illusion of saving through sales and coupons. As we know, retail stores often inflate prices, then promote campaigns, advertising discount offers to attract customer through this hype.

I think it was highly commendable of the company to implement this new strategy and create a campaign out of it – they took a risk. Unfortunately, the risk didn’t pay off, sales dropped. Total sales dropped by 20%.

I want to focus on two areas: i) Why it was a great idea; ii) Was the failing of this strategy caused by the campaign message not resonating with customers or did the “fair and square” practice fail to excite customers to return to the store as often?

Why it was a great idea

On paper, this sounds like a plan that cannot go wrong:

1) The brains behind the strategy was CEO Ron Johnson, the man responsible for the success of the Apple Stores model. This guy knows what he’s doing.
2) Wal-mart and dollar stores already practice this approach and have achieved success
3) They took care of their customers, by engaging in open, honest communication                                                                                                
4) The strategy was logical and rational from a business perspective
5) As a result of the abundance of information through the internet today, customers are more educated and aware of business tactics, so should this “fair and square” practice and the campaign been more appreciated?

What caused the poor response?

This article concludes that customers like the excitement of couponing. As Mr. Johnson admits here:

“We did not realize how deep some of the customers were into [coupons],” said [JCPenney COO Michael] Kramer.
JCPenney CEO and Apple retail God Ron Johnson weighed in on it too. “Coupons were a drug,” he said. “They really drove traffic.”

The effect “getting a deal” has on our mind, involves a greater understanding of psychology than we thought. It seems our brains are triggered to release dopamine when we are able to procure items at discounted prices. This is proof that pricing is more than just a mathematical formula.

JCPenney “Fair and Square” Campaign Touches on Customers’ Expectations

Wal-mart and dollar stores also practice the same strategy; however, their positioning and marketing has never gone where JC Penny did. JC Penny recognized how the abundance of info available on the internet and social media has changed customers’ expectations. Customers today are more educated and appreciate open, honest communication. So, JC Penny delivered an honest, open marketing campaign, revealing their stance on the illusion of saving.

Three reflection points:

1) For the entrepreneurs and marketing folks out there, this proves there is much, much more involved in developing a pricing strategy than simply the knowing the break-even point and target sales/profits/costs. The formula for determining the right price should be a collage of finance, accounting, consumer behaviour, what the competitors are doing, environment, and some blue construction paper, and glitter glue. What does the blue construction paper and glitter glue mean to you?

2) Other companies, like Wal-mart and dollar stores (entities which have proliferated lately!) offer lower prices on a regularly and have achieved extraordinary levels of success. Based on JC Penny’s sales drop, are customers resistant because the “fair and square” campaign message simply didn’t resonate with them, or is it the lack of excitement as this article implies?

3) Is consumerism getting out of hand?

Copyright © Esha Abrol. Canada. July 2012

The stairs, elevator, remain on the ground floor, or e-mail?

A few months ago I decided to quit my 9-5 job. Tomorrow is my last day.

So, what next?

It doesn’t matter!

“What do you mean you’re not looking for a job?!”
I was chatting with a friend today who will also be moving on from her 9-5 job. Why? Has she found another job? No. Is she at an age where she can officially retire? Not even close. She’s taking time off to spend time with her family, reflect, and open her mind to the world. We were talking about the looks of confusion see receives when she tells people this.

Society has shaped our minds to feel like our shoulders should be raised with stress all the time, that our Outlook calendars should dictate how we spend our time, and that we should remain stationary in front of a computer for the better part of the day from Monday to Friday. Only if you do these things can you feel satisfied with your level of productivity and self-worth.

I think entrepreneurs are outcasts when it comes to these beliefs. I had the opportunity start my own business while I was still a student and hail from a family of business owners. Upon two other entrepreneurial ventures I experimented with as a student (that didn’t quite lift off) and then graduation, I felt I needed to get a “job” like everyone else. So, I did. A great one, actually…

After working more than 150 hours/week for months as an entrepreneur, employee at a retail store, summer intern with the government, and student (all at the same time!), I embarked upon a new adventure: the corporate world – the 38-hour work-week where I would be able to apply my knowledge of intern’l trade, marketing, and leadership. It was different. Upon two and a half years of working away in corporate marketing, I’ve met great people, worked on challenging project, and had great laughs. Even while working my 9-5 job, on the side, I built a couple of other start-ups just for fun. I have come to understand that if entrepreneurship is in your DNA, it’s impossible to live a “normal” life. Only other beings of this species seem to comprehend.

Only you determine your worth

You can choose to take the stairs, elevator, enjoy the beauty of the site from the ground, or just walk-by ignoring the site with all your attention focussed on typing an e-mail reply on your mobile device.

Many folks asked me why I can’t continue to build ideas on the side, while continuing my 9-5. I then ask them: “If you decided to build a business and knew that it would bring you fulfillment, after a lot of hard work that you would enjoy, would you work in a job that you were not passionate for?” Confidence is king. As I was flipping channels a few years ago, I stopped on an interview with Oprah, I remember her asking the audience to: imagine the world in their minds and picture their position in it – their projection of this world in their minds is the first step in making it a reality. Whether it’s accumulating monetary wealth, the contentment that comes from doing something you enjoy, or the optimal health that can be achieved through the state of being satisfied in the inner mind and spirit.

Reach for the sky, Esha

Copyright © Esha Abrol. Canada. May 2012

Open Letter to all Presidents/CEOs of large, bureaucratic organizations: Give the young ones a chance!

Firstly, I only have 28% battery life left on my laptop and without the power adapter. My challenge: To get my thoughts down somewhere are share them through here… forgive me for grammer/spelling/scattered thoughts. 🙂

Secondly, this entry will not actually be in a letter format… because, well, who writes letters anymore?
Today, at an annual work conference, I had the opportunity to hear many cool individuals speak about, mainly, various areas of organizational culture. Yeah… org culture… but this is actually interesting, so I hope you’ll keep reading. The two folks that really got my attention were Tom Jenkins of OpenText and Alex Benay, also from OpenText.

They talked about the diversity on their team, with the only commonality among the team at OpenText being the drive to innovate. And, the average age of their team being app. 27 years old. Tom Jenkins shared his appreciation for the fresh perspectives and new ideas “young” people bring. He recognized, with those under the age of 30, as memory may be diminishing, we can see creativity and the ability to multi-task rising. He recommended all companies bring-in more creativity and multi-tasking abilities to senior levels of the organization, whether that be on boards or executive teams (i.e. senior levels). By giving the younger generations a chance!
Let’s talk about this. So, if I were to approach the CEO/President of a large corporation today, gave them the most impressive elevator pitch they have ever heard, listed what I would bring to the table if on the Executive team, then, went for the close an asked them to hire me… What would he/she say? My guess would be, they would pause, smile, then, realize I was serious and question my sanity.

Large organizations need to re-visit there HR strategies and their organizational culture. There are amazing companies like OpenText out there with a start-up mentality, willing to give young, 20-somethings a chance to be empowered, make mistakes (opportunities to learn lessons they’ll never forget), and achieve greater rewards.

What would be the pros of adding a 20-something to the Executive discussions? More creative abrasion, more learning, new ideas, possibliy PR opportunities if they did it now (think about the headlines: “Large corp hires a 26-year-old as the Senior Director of Innovation”), opportunities to grow a presence within a younger demographic, stronger organizational culture, etc.

Alex Benay talked about how companies today don’t have 10-15 years to establish themselves anymore. I would agree. Just look at Facebook and Shopify as they continue to ship new features on a regular basis. Communities like Sprouter make it easier for the entrepreneur to get their name out their and to reach out for help. Contrary to what the economists are saying, there are many opportunities out there today in terms of work. But, the exciting ones are for the Gen Y’ers because of their risk profile. Who exactly? Those who finished-up school, did the 9-5 thing for a while to save $ to eat, without a mortgage and family support are in a position to take more risks and will see more rewards. These minds are also crucial in large orgs. Intrapreneurs are the bold ones that keep organization relevant and profitable. They also need to know today’s world through tacit knowledge.

My advice to large organizations: Please consider change.

 Cordially,

Esha

Copyright © Esha Abrol. Canada. February 2012

Creating a Tipping Point: Let’s Tilt a Glass to All the Key Players

In my observations, for a few years now, “leadership” has remained high on the list of “top buzz words of the year”. But what about the “follower”? The follower rarely receives attention.

Have a look at this video:

Let’s look at this from a business strategy perspective. I think “leader” can be compared to the first-mover concept or companies who are prime-providers in a particular industry, and “follower”, the second-mover concept or companies who are players in a competitive arena.

While developing their business strategies, organizations (especially start-ups) often craft their product positioning statement and vision statements to include something on being a leader in “x”. (Example: To become the leading providers of molybdenum to China for their infrastructure developments.)

Often, the “leader” status is seen as the ultimate badge of honour.

Being the “leader” is not the most ideal for all organizations; this video offers a fantastic message, which demonstrates the level of impact “followers” have to offer.

Let’s tilt a glass to the ambitious, local start-ups – may they continue to impact the world.

I feel satisfied that I finally found a relevant way to share this video – love the marketing message and high entertainment value. Hope you will take the time to watch.

Esha

Copyright © Esha Abrol. Canada. December, 2011.

How to Fix RIM!

Three words: Strat. E. Gy. Or lack of it.

RIM is choking on a piece of rotten fruit, it has been for a while — why are they only seeking medical attention now? RIM needs CPR, now. No miracles needed, just a lot of focus and strong leadership can bring it back to life.

Yes, I DO think Research in Motion’s business is fixable.

As I work on finalizing a business plan for a new business to be fully launched in early 2012, I am relieved I’m almost done with this dreadful phase of developing a start-up. Putting together a good business plan is always painful because of the countless hours of work and re-work required. However, after discussing sections of the document with my business partner last week, of course, we were reminded of the importance of this thing. It forced us to look into areas we didn’t think of before, to answer questions that we didn’t ask ourselves before. And, this is exactly what a strategic business plan should do, if done properly.

Addressing areas of the business that were not previously looked at or answering questions that were never asked should be approached with strategy, supported with clear business objectives. Now, I think most would agree – this all sounds logical, simple and straight-forward, but business decisions are often made without any strategic- thinking. 

Without strategy, business operations can quickly become tactical and meaningless. Multiple activities being performed, just for the sake of getting something done because you have realized action needs to be taken. That can work for a while. After sometime, this approach can lead to a domino effect — one, tactical quick-fix will eventually lead to another, and so on. Although everyone is busy, productivity sinks. Business operators become caught-up in getting things done without stepping back for a minute to ask, WHY.  We forget to evaluate the impact of business activities being performed and exploring better of doing things. There may be approaches out there now that are more cost-effective, efficient, or just cooler that can provide a competitive edge.

In my opinion (there are currently a lot of these on RIM), I do think RIM’s business is fixable.  But they need to go back to the original business plan template and write-up a plan.

Leadership has moved at pace which can be called reactive, or worse. In the competitive mobile communications space, the first-mover advantage can be vital, especially when your competitors are Apple and Google. Blackberry’s R&D seems to be based on Apple’s or Google’s actions with iPhones or the Android system.

To get the obvious out of the way: Yes, support for innovation is weaker in Canada, than in the U.S., but Canada does have a large pool of talent. So I do think RIM is comparable to Apple and Google.

For example, we only heard about the Playbook, which was then called the BlackPad, after the first iPad was already launched. Was it smart business to take-on the heavy costs that would eat-up cashflow to develop a product so quickly even though the competitor had already had the chance to develop, launch, test, and learn from their mistakes?

The problem is, I don’t think they can honestly answer this question even now.

The company’s failure to understand their competitive edge and to fully capitalize on it has been the ultimate cause of their current position. Eventually, their reactive, tactical approach was bound to catch-up to them. With financial analysts and investors’ reduced confidence, a disoriented team culture (with the recent news of laying-off 2,000, or 11% of their workforce), tough critics, and even tougher competition, RIM’s got a bit of work to do. 
 

Copyright © Esha Abrol. Canada. August 15, 2011.