Is being connected making you better or just sloppy?

While traveling last week I noticed a family of three at dinner doing something that made me question the way that mobility and connectivity have affected our lives. The parents had both heads down toward their iPhones while their teenage son was sitting undistracted as if dining alone. Don’t get me wrong; I’m just as big an offender as anyone in this area but sometimes clarity can only come from the observation of others. This brief moment made me realize that while we all think that our smart phones have made us more effective, efficient, and successful, for some people and some situations just the opposite is true. Unlike any other time in history, we are living during a time of endless growing possibilities and choices related to how we communicate, work, socialize, and recreate. For those who prioritize and focus the payoff can be profound. The ability to have a family, travel, and be self employed all without missing a beat is possible in a way that has never been possible before. Unfortunately for some, this opportunity turns into a mess of distractions and lack of focus that can result in a never ending workday and lower productivity. The challenge is especially great for the self employed, sole proprietors who need to manage me a client base, scheduling, book keeping, marketing, and support without any outside help. For these professionals, having a clear plan is the difference between success and misery.

iphone over lunch

Productive or sloppy?

What are the critical success factors for today’s on-the-go professionals?

1. Prioritize and focus on core competencies: It’s so old school but it will always be true. Define your core competencies and find other ways to complete the rest of your responsibilities. Trying to do everything will only distract you from your core needs and ultimately undermine the quality of your product or service. Does Southwest Airlines try to manufacture it’s own planes? No. They focus on delivering passengers to their destinations in a way that is pleasant, affordable, and easy. Make sure you are not trying to become a tax, accounting, and IT expert at the expense of your clients and profits. (Unless you are a tax, accounting, or IT service provider of coarse. You get the point)

2. Don’t get distracted by every bright and shiny object. Every day there will be a friend, client, trade publication or search engine tempting you with all kinds of gizmos, gadgets, a and techniques to change your business. Beware! While staying fresh is essentially to success, a constant flow of distractions and restarts will undermine your business. If you are clear on number 1 in this list, then it will be easier to decide which bright and shiny objects to chase and explore. Focus on items that either help you deliver on your core competencies with greater proficiency or help reduce the distraction of non core responsibilities. If you are a massage therapist, then a client management solution that quickly tracks sales data on a mobile device in a way that can be easily exported to a tax preparation professional will eliminate the need to tally receipts and invoices at year end. Less time on admin, more time harvesting and servicing clients.

3. Set a limit on after hours work. This hard for the self employed but in today’s mobile and connected world, the temptation and capability exist to work 24 hours a day wherever you may be. Try setting a limit on your after hours work and tracking yourself for a few weeks. If you exceed your limit start evaluating the necessity and quality of the work being done after hours. Are you just nervously checking email and text constantly like a junkie with a serious addiction? If so, are you really providing quality responses to these messages? Should you set some boundaries up for yourself as to when you will provide thoughtful and quality responses? Midnight after a few glasses of wine is probably not that time. If you know that there will be time set aside specifically for this task each day, the anxiety of the inbox can be reduced. It’s true that people expect to hear back from you the same day unless messages are sent at night, but you can accomplish this by setting up some designated time to do this several times per day but less than three hundred…

4. Stay current in the field. If you’re truly prioritizing and still can’t get it all done, start taking a serious look into tools, services, and strategies that will put you on a more sustainable path. Getting the proper rest each night is up there with eating right and exercise when it comes to avoiding heart disease. Take the time to change what you’re doing and how you do it. If admin is pilling up and stealing nights and weekends, start researching mobile business utility applications (shameless plug) that will help you keep up in the field. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with once you have identified your core competencies and set limits on your after hours work.

We live during an interesting time and there is no historic playbook by which to guide us in this highly connected world in which we now live. These new technologies level the playing field for many people, especially the self employed, freelancers, and independent service providers. However, technology must be used in a way that is well matched to specific business needs or it becomes a dangerous and costly distraction. Define your core competencies, set limits on your time, and find tools that will specifically serve those purposes. Once you do it will be satisfying to sit back every now and then and watch the bright and shiny objects fade away in your rear view mirror.

Written by Justin Shelby, CEO and Co-Founder of the Artichoke Mobile Client Management Solution

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