Part of the Colibri Digital Marketing Good Books to Read series, this post was inspired by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, written Sean Covey, son of internationally best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens came into my life because it was assigned to my son over the summer before his freshman year in high school, or I probably wouldn’t have picked it up or read it. Busy as I am, I headed straight for a summary of the 7 habits, and I was unexpectedly and pleasingly inspired.
If, as a solopreneur, parent, co-worker, or even as a friend or lover, you turn these 7 principles into habits, you won’t have to do much else to live a fulfilling and ethical life. In this post, I share how these principles work in my life, both professionally and personally. I hope that, busy as you probably are, you’ll be inspired to consider how to apply them in your own.
1. Take responsibility for your life.
Fair or unfair, your life is in your hands. I’m not saying we all have an equal chance at enjoying peaceful and productive lives; it’s pretty obvious that we don’t. What each of has is our unique chances, and, if we want to be happy, we’ll make the most of them, understanding all the while that we are only in charge of our efforts, and not the outcomes.
Each of us is responsible for our own behavior, no matter how other people behave. Sometimes this feels impossible, like when people are rude in line and you’re running late for an appointment, but it’s not. That’s one reason why these 7 principles are to be cultivated as habits. It’s easier to take responsibility for yourself if you make it a habit.
2. Define your mission and your goals in life.
This one is a fun one, somewhat like the spiritual equivalent of shopping. Out of the infinite available options for missions and goals, you get to select the right ones for you — and it’s free! I’ll be honest, though, and say that my mission in life was initially defined by a desire for my children’s survival, and then, after my divorce, by fear for my own survival. I don’t believe the quest for survival is an ideal motivator, but it worked for me in a pinch.
Colibri Digital Marketing’s mission is: To generate targeted leads to websites that convert visitors into customers using digital marketing best practices for clients who value the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. It took me four years to settle on a mission that feels timeless and true. While I’ve come to see missions and goals as works in progress, a mission you feel truly comfortable with is something you can return to time and time again to keep you and your business on course.
Given our mission, I can ask, each time we consider adding or refining a service: Does this generate targeted leads? Do these leads convert into customers? And, when I consider a new client, I can ask myself: Does this client’s vision for a better world square with my own? For me, it’s relaxing to have defined what I want and then to go for it.
Now that it looks like I’m going to survive (at least until I die), I’m in the process of defining my personal life mission and my goals in a post-children, living single world. I have to admit, defining my personal mission is trickier than defining a business mission. I guess that’s because it’s, like I said, personal.
I do know that I created Colibri Digital Marketing to support myself and my children. Now that the business is supporting people besides us (something that, frankly, I hadn’t considered when I started out), I understand that businesses can be separate organisms, and that my business is not me. I’m excited to continue the journey towards a business that can be sold and perhaps create something new that I have not as yet imagined.
3. Prioritize, and do the most important things first.
This piece of advice is a hard one for me. Not infrequently, because my business involves keeping track of quite a few deliverables with their attendant details, I feel overwhelmed. Sometimes, in order to paralysis, I do the next thing on my list — whether it’s critical or not.
I have established a hierarchy that helps me make decisions. It is: God, myself, my children, my work, and my friends and family — in that order. Work floats to the top of the hierarchy perhaps more often than it should. And sometimes I forget, in the midst of anxiety and overwhelm, that I can turn things over to God. Still, it’s a framework that works for me on a macro level, at least in theory.
I can’t remember who originated the “eat a frog” concept, which is built around making sure you start your day by doing one important thing, but I find that I feel better if I do. Email, texts, incoming phone calls, and, if you work from home, shouts from the kitchen, can feel and be sisyphean — and keep you from accomplishing anything of importance.
Here’s my very imperfect system: On the weekend, I write out, by hand, a week-long calendar, a client and project list, and a to-do list. I also keep a blank space for “to do next week.” Writing things out by hand makes me consider them more deeply, I find.
I start by writing in everything from digital calendar, and then I look at my to-do list and fill in the unscheduled gaps with items from my to-do list. If ever I find that I have time left over after I fill in all of my scheduled items and to-dos, I’ve committed to leaving that time free to, as I call it, “get dreamy.” If not everything gets done, or new things come up, then I transfer them to the to do next week list.
I use an app I really love called Momentum to schedule my daily tasks. The app, which starts your day with a new and beautiful image and quote, allows you to set a theme for your day and features a convenient to-do list. I type in what I want to accomplish for that day (I add in anything extra I do so I can check that off, too) and then I check it off as I complete it. I find it convenient, satisfying, and even pleasurable, to have a running list right on my desktop.
4. Have an everyone-can-win attitude.
This principle is one of my favorites. It reminds me that business doesn’t have to be competitive — it can be collaborative. If I had to be competitive all the time, or felt that everything was me against them, it would really increase my anxiety. Keeping in mind that everyone can win is uplifting — and makes business sense as well. If you can learn the art of negotiating deals that leave everyone feeling like a winner, you will likely attract repeat business, no matter what your field.
5. Listen to people sincerely.
I believe that very little in business — or personal life — is more important than good communication because, after all, business is about relationships, and relationships are developed through communication. My team is spread throughout the world, from San Francisco to Canada, South Africa, and Bucharest, Romania. Communication has to happen across time zones, cultures, and languages, and I’ll admit that at first I underestimated the impact these differences could have on my energy levels and our team’s results.
The process of learning to be a better communicator, and thus optimizing work flow and quality, has been a real, sometimes frustrating, ultimately rewarding, challenge. A sense of humor and a caring attitude are essential when leading a team. I have always loved experiencing different cultures and languages and believe that cultural interchange encourages the broad-minded tolerance I value, so leading an international team, despite the challenges, gives my work a lively and meaningful feel.
I’ll admit, I am not the world’s best listener, but it’s something I aspire to. Being a good listener is part of being a generous human being, and generosity is another one of my essential values. Friends and lovers appreciate feeling heard and understood. Being a good listener is both generous and life-affirming; it is a gift you can give everyone you know.
6. Work together to achieve more.
The principle of working together to achieve more really speaks to the idea of team. When I first teamed up with my Romanian subcontractors, one of their selling points was “you don’t have to go it alone,” and with their help Colibri Digital Marketing was able to expand service offerings, which in turn made me feel more confident about providing complete digital marketing packages to our clients.
More recently, I brought on my VP of Production, Jasmine Cabanaw. She is talented, hard-working, and definitely a team player. It has been amazing having someone to share ideas with and call on when I need another point of view or pair of hands. The thing is, none of us are ever truly alone, so it makes the most sense to consciously work together. In my case, having a team with which I can share my vision makes my work feel purposeful and motivating.
I also ask my children to pitch in. My children occasionally cook and clean up so that I can go to a meeting or finish a project. My children lead very privileged lives, and helping their mother provide for the family will I hope help them be the best, most generous, and empathetic people they can be.
7. Renew yourself regularly.
I considered reordering this list to put “renew yourself regularly” first. I thought: self-care is the foundation of everything else. There is no way to live your best life unless you have cared for yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I left self-care where it was because, in a sense, this list is like a circle, and taking taking responsibility for yourself (the first item on the list), is the ultimate form of self-care.
As best I can, I follow all the common sense forms of self-care, including getting regular exercise, prioritizing sleep, taking stretch breaks away from the computer, and drinking water. I also have meditation and prayer practices that help me feel strong and connected to a higher a power. Ultimately, though, all these rituals and practices can feel a little dry. What I find is that, as a business owner and a mother, light-hearted fun is the one thing I am often missing.
Here’s an example: At the end of 2015 I did a closet clean out and wardrobe upgrade so that I would look more professional at networking events and sales meetings. More recently a friend invited me to go dancing and when I asked what I should wear, she suggested something “cute.” I realized that all I had left myself with was business attire! I think this means that, among other things, I need to take another look principle number 3, above, and reconsider my priorities.
Life is short. Let’s work, love, and play hard!
If this way of working and living resonates with you, schedule a complimentary digital strategy session with Colibri Digital Marketing founder, Anna Colibri (that’s me). We’ll talk about how to achieve your mission, meet your goals, and grow your business with digital marketing best practices.
It’s fun 🙂