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I had coffee this morning with a new person in my network. He is in the publishing business where he publishes a monthly industry-specific magazine and is one of the primary sales people charged with selling advertising and building relationships in the industry he serves.

He shared that in his life, each day is like a game of volleyball. The game begins when he arrives at work, when the first volley is his email Inbox. Then the phone calls and meetings come in. The next volley is addressing the issues or situations that are presented by his team. Almost every day goes something like this.

He bemoaned that he is in a constant state of reaction and has very little time to think proactively (i.e., strategically) about his business. He’s not able to take a step away from the noise and constant volleying to consider what’s really important and the direction he needs to go next.

As I sat and listened, I saw myself in his narrative and also remembered similar stories from conversations with other business owners. It seems as though we all slide into our role as business owner and the days sweep us away, leaving us wondering, “What did I get done today?”

I stepped into coach mode with my new friend and identified three steps to thinking and acting more strategically each day.

  1. Escape – My new friend realized that he has very little quiet time when he can detach from the noise and duck the constant barrage of volleyballs. He has quiet time at home, though he understandably doesn’t want to think about business there. Here’s how I suggested he find his workday quiet zone: Pick a spot where you are out of reach and away from the noise. Take up residence in a coffee shop with no WiFi network; sit in your car with no smartphone and the radio off; sit in a public park.
  2. Schedule strategic thinking time – I asked my new friend how much time he would feel comfortable carving out for some solid proactive, strategic thinking. He thought one hour would be a great start. “So which hour of the day will you schedule that on your calendar?” I challenged. He squirmed a little and then said he could make it work from 3:00-4:00 p.m. Don’t leave your own thinking time to chance. Aggressively carve out the time on your calendar. This is something you and your business deserve and need.
  3. Buddy up – I asked my friend who he talks to about his business and his important issues and goals. He just shook his head, there is no one. This isn’t unusual for business owners. One of the top issues owners face is loneliness. Find a friend, fellow business owner or coach who will listen, ask questions and share a perspective. Having this accountability and support is invaluable to thinking strategically and getting out of the volleyball game.

Where are some places you could escape to during your work day?

When will you schedule the thinking time in your calendar?

Who will you buddy up with to end the isolation of business ownership?

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Jeff HarmonJeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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