I have a son in 7th grade. Like his father back in the day (that's me), he is not always completely "dialed in" when it comes to school. I received an email from one of his teachers asking some pretty good questions. Here's the gist of what she wrote:
The first quarter is wrapped up. Tests from the quarter will be sent home. I suggest you look at the tests with your child and ask some questions, especially if your child is teetering on success and failure.
Question 1: Compare your notes with the test. Did you take good notes? Did you give yourself the opportunity to succeed? If your notes do not match up with the test, you need a strategy to get better engaged in the class. Ask questions. Use your time to compare notes with others.
Question 2: Can you read your notes? If you can't read what you have written, how can you possibly expect to do well?
Question 3: Did you study enough. This does not mean did you burn the midnight oil the night before the test. Did you study for days and weeks leading up to the tests. If you did not, perhaps you should consider doing so.
Question 4: Are you organized enough to be successful?
So how does a letter from a 7th grade science teacher fit into running a bookkeeping, accounting, technology practice, or even a magazine serving that market? The leap is not that big when you look at the questions from the lens of a business owner/operator, or even as an employee, except the questions may look more like this:
Question 1: When you are meeting with clients, are you taking good notes? Do you have a system to record your notes and details of the event that you use effectively? If you have follow up conversations with clients and respond with "I don't recall that conversation" regularly, you need a better system.
Question 2: Can you read your notes? Do they make any sense 24 hours after you wrote them? I took some notes on a call recently that turned out to be very important. Fortunately they were legible and made sense!
Question 3: Are you investing enough time in your business for it to be successful? Are you investing the time where it needs to be invested, or are you spinning your wheels doing low payback activities?
Question 4: Are you organized enough to be successful. Do you have good processes in place. We moved a month ago and I can tell you that our house is a mess. Our cars are a mess. Our garage is a mess. My office is a mess. My work environment is not one that screams success. (That changes this weekend!).
Joe Woodard recently challenged his staff, and me, to get to a Zero InBox work habit. Leverage the technology we have in order to become more efficient, more focused and better organized. We published an article last year, 5 Steps To Reach Inbox Zero, which may be a good place to start if you want to go down that path to productivity. You also may want to read Joe Woodard's article on The Inbox Apocalypse to give yourself a primer.
How am I doing on the Zero InBox Challenge? As I type this I have 66 unread emails and close to 300 emails in my inbox. Sorry Joe! (There are some zeros in 300, but they are preceded by too many other numbers!) This goes back to question 4. Are you organized and do you have good processes in place that allow you to be successful?
I believe the process we have in place is a good one. I think we have the right tools, but in order to be useful the tools must be used properly and the process must be acted upon.
I clearly have a lot of work to do to embrace the process, leverage the tools and clean up the physical and mental clutter in my home and office. Fortunately it is the weekend and I will have plenty of time to take care of the mess in between the middle school party tonight, the soccer game and birthday party tomorrow and the cub scout meeting and soccer game on Sunday.
Zero InBox here I come!