Dear Elaine,

Recently I was inspired to go running and ended up running more than I have ever run before. It wasn’t my initial intention, in fact if you’d asked me that same morning if I was going to run that far, I would have laughed and said, ‘no way’. I had planned to go for a short run along the beach, enjoy the fresh air and scenery, followed by some weights in the hotel gym before settling into work. 

As I started running, I realized just how thick the fog was, I really couldn’t see very far in front of me. I didn’t know the area or know how safe it was. I used my Fitbit to track a mile before running back towards the hotel along the same path. On completing this first 2 miles, I felt good and thought I’d do the same in the opposite direction. One mile away from the hotel, I still felt good enough to push myself a little further. If I ran another mile away from the hotel that would put me at my personal best of 6 miles to get back to the hotel. At 6 miles, the sun was breaking through the fog. I could see the pier which before, wasn’t visible until I got right up to it. It didn’t look that far, but it was deceptive. I knew it was a mile away because of tracking on my Fitbit.

When we don’t know the path forward and we fear for what’s in front, we can procrastinate, feel overwhelmed and stall, sometimes to the detriment of the business or our profession and certainly not reaching our true potential or having a sense of accomplishment.

Could I run to the pier and back again and break my personal best to do 8 miles? Anything from this point on was a personal best, so I focused on a building half way between the hotel and the pier. By breaking down each part of the run and focusing on the next landmark, it enabled me to run 10 miles in total. I’d never contemplated running 10 miles and now that I had, a whole other world opened up. Believing that now I could run a half marathon, it might take me a while but what was once not even a thought or something I believed I would do, had now become not only possible but believable. 

Understanding that in business we don’t always know if it’s safe to move forward especially if we can’t see into the future or what’s ahead of us. We can feel like we’re running into the fog.

As I followed the water’s edge, I knew that if I went right, I’d end up in deep water and if I went to the left that area was safe. Only as I moved forward could I see what was in front of me. Only by using my Fitbit and tracking could I have a sense of the distance traveled. Isn’t this the same when we take on something new in business? I’m working on a big project for myself currently to get my poems into songs, books and TV. I don’t have all the answers or know the whole path, but each time I take a step, the path opens before me. 

4 Steps to Move Forward

  1. Talk to people who have gone down that path before. The landscape changes so it’s important to know who’s been down that road recently and not a long time ago. Trends from even 5 years ago may not be current trends. Those doing it now can be helpful and accelerate progress.
  2. If you can, read a map, create a business plan or project scope of work. Figure out the lay of the land before you venture forward. Predict what might be ahead and where there might be red flags or danger.
  3. Move carefully and deliberately, have landmarks and stay present to surroundings. Keep track of where you are going to prevent getting lost. I followed the edge of the water but sometimes there’s no visible landmarks. Carve out your own landmarks ‘x marks the spot’. Landmarks are goals and benchmarks. They’re there to make visible the road you’re taking and keep heading in the right direction.
  4. Distance can be deceptive. Sometimes when you’re caught in the fog, we think we’ve reached our destination sooner than expected, other times we miss the turnings. Estimate how long the journey might take, costs, materials etc. Do a breakeven analysis. Set expectations, guidelines, policies and boundaries. When everyone knows what is expected and can anticipate the outcome or know the finish line we can understand resources, manpower and skills required.

When you feel as if you’ve headed into the fog, use these 4 steps as guidelines to help steer you along the path. Look for help, track the path and keep your eyes on the lay of the land. By doing this you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to.

Time Management to Leverage Your Day tip: 

Break things down into smaller tasks

Make molehills out of mountains. Keep breaking things down until you find that it is achievable in the time you have. Even the big projects can be broken down & further broken down.

Elaine Betts