The link between structure and success for credit unions

Powering up your productivity in the new year

Meetings. Events. Deadlines. Members. How’s a person to get it all done – AND still have room in the calendar for all the “good stuff” like family, friends and personal time? Impossible? Not at all. The trick is a little structure, a little strategy and a system that works specifically for YOU. No two Credit Unions and no two people are alike, so defining the structure that allows YOU to work at your highest potential without the fear of burnout is vital.

Take me, for example. As an attention expert and keynote speaker, I spend a LOT of time on airplanes, walking convention floors; meeting clients, coaching, creating, sharing ideas and strategies with the people in my mentoring program—and of course, running a business and all that entails. For our team? The easiest way to accelerate productivity is to systemize the week. Now like all good systems, we don’t get it right every time and it doesn’t work every time however it is a great guideline for us.

We don’t work as many weekends with clients. We want to protect weekends as recovery time whenever possible; we know this isn’t practical for some of you reading this blog. So this is how we like to structure our week:

  • Monday – meeting with mentors in the mentoring, networking, client appointments, writing, strategy and often this is a travel day to speak at an event.
  • Tuesday to Thursday – speaking and media interviews and travelling.
  • Friday – more speaking, meeting with mentors (mostly in the morning) writing, setting up the next week and catching up.

It’s simple (it’s idealistic… but hey, it’s good to have a wishful week right?). This allows us maximize time balancing what we do with how we do it. Could you think about balancing your day if your week is a harder place to start?

Ready to get down to structuring your OWN success plan to take you into the new year? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. First things first: You: “But Neen, there’s no time.” The truth is that if you’re not healthy, happy and looking after yourself, you’ll never be your best for your Credit Union, your members, your family or anyone else. That whole, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” thing? Is an eye opener, or at least it should be. So step one in making a better, more productive year ahead is to schedule YOURSELF first. Book an appointment every day that is focused on you. This might include exercise, mediation, quiet time, reading, self development – or all of the above!
  1. Get crystal-clear: It’s hard to hit a moving target. When you’re unsure of your plan, your goals, your vision for the most important things you’re eager to achieve, it’s fairly hard to knock it out of the park. The good news is the reverse is true. When you’re exceptionally clear on what you want, where you’re headed, what the highest vision is that you have for your future and those things that so powerfully important to you that you’ll jump out of bed each day with a passion to make them happen – you can’t lose. For me, I love to speak on productivity, helping people make room in their lives and days to PAY ATTENTION to those things that really matter. That’s my focus. My very simple WHY. The simplicity allows me to determine where I want to spend my time which becomes a filtering system for time choices.
  1. Block time for business. Admin work. Seriously not my favorite thing. Not most people’s favorite thing. But all Credit Unions require administration, attention to details and dare I say it… paperwork. I’m grateful to have a wonderful virtual business manager Maria Novey, who does much of the heavy lifting for me, but some of it still needs my undivided attention. So, I block time for that. (Monday’s if possible. Which makes me laugh sometimes. It reminds me of the story where you’re given a list of tasks that you HAVE to accomplish by the end of the day, one of which is eating a frog. Yuck! But as Mark Twain once shared, “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things that is going to happen to you all day long.” Your “frog”? The biggest thing on your plate. The most daunting. Or boring. Or scary. The thing you’d LEAST like to do. Knock it out of the way first though (like on a Monday) and the rest of the day, or week, is your oyster. 
  1. Block your projects: Ours is a busy world, with a lot of demands. There are always a list of projects that require our attention, but closing those circles can be intimidating from a time-constraint perspective. Let me share an example of how my team managed this, and see if it works for you as well. Like many of you I serve on some boards, including the National Speakers Association board. When I was co-chairing an event for my professional organization. This was a super time-intensive commitment, and had the capacity to be a full-time job, although not one that would increase my revenue directly, so managing the time in was a priority. We decided, as a team, to restrict the allotted time for the project to Monday afternoons and Friday mornings. This one simple time-blocking step ensured if we needed to speak with someone, speak with my co-chair or reach out to participants – we do it in one of these time blocks. Time blocking is a beautiful thing. It provides clarity. Structure. Takes away stress. Just like when your work space is orderly – a place for everything and everything in it’s place. When there’s a time for everything and everything is in it’s time – you breathe a little easier. Have time for the good stuff. Ask yourself, “What projects are you working on that you could time block this week?” (Then DO it!)
  1. Manage interruptions: Stuff happens. Wherever you work, interruptions are inevitable. For some, that one little blip in the time-table of their day throws off their groove for a week! Instead? Take a pro-active approach to how you handle interruptions. Try wearing headphones while you get tasks completed, stand up when someone comes in your office to help accelerate the conversation or create a do-not-disturb sign (that the whole team understands) while you are chin-deep in a deadline, doing member development or an intense project.
  1. Try systems on for size: Change is AH-MAZING, but it can also be a temporary detour while you’re getting used to a new system, strategy, or structure. Not everything will work and that’s all right. Be willing to give them a try. Select a week, advise your team of the goal you are wanting to accomplish, block the time for training and implementation then review at the end of the week to see if it’s a keeper of an idea, if it needs tweaking, or if it’s a dud for you and yours. Keep trying new things, and you’ll find that your membership and results will expand proportionately!

I’m wishing you EVERY success in the new year. Systems that work for you. Tools that make sense. Structure that helps eliminate stress. And TIME to PAY ATTENTION to the things that matter most in your life. I’m here to help!

Neen James

Neen James

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