Spinning ’round in Circles
You may have heard, it said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. What goes around comes around. The pendulum swings both ways… and obvious cliches. But realistically, we all know that this is true. Humans live and run on cycles: annual holidays, birthdays, new year’s monthly bills, weekly routines work, rest rinse, repeat as salespeople. We live and die by monthly, weekly, or annual sales quotas; but we make money one day at a time.
A day is just the chunk of time can, most meaningfully control. Minutes and hours… they’re just too small, too fleeting; and too subject to the fate and will of another. Weeks are also hard to grasp. You can review a week when the week is over, but on any particular day, you’re just focusing on that day. You’re not thinking about the week in total. Each day seems to be filled with opportunity and purpose. They just seem to be the smallest chunk of time that we can reasonably manage.
Clichés for a Good Reason
Every day can be a new day. The sun can rise and it can be the first day of the rest of your life. Today can also be the last day you ever drink, or the first day you stop letting that thing from your past, hold you back. Every moment in history started on a day. Every great victory was won on a day. The greatest events of your life may sweep across many years or weeks building up to that day, but we always measure it back to a day. It’s apropos that I’m releasing this episode right after a holiday weekend, 4th of July.
We blow stuff up. We eat too much. Maybe we drink too much, and then we have a tough week to get through where no one’s really in the office anyways. So we going out our numbers and we trudge through. But now is the week after, and we’re in the middle of the summer, and it’s very tempting to slack off on any one day. One of the greatest challenges we have in sales is that our success feels like powerful highlights in the midst of long gray dullness, a series of wins and losses spread over a lifetime.
The Value of Any Single Day
But that’s not what it really looks like. In reality, a successful sales career is a series of performing the right activities over thousands of days. That’s what discipline, and consistency are for. And for a few glorious days, every month or year, you will reap the benefit of that consistent work, that consistent discipline. You’ll close a deal and you’ll celebrate. But you didn’t close the deal just on that day, there was a lot of work that went up to that. It will seem like these wins, fall out of the sky or reward by fate or chance, but that’s not how it works. A successful career can be measured by successful days.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Each day, affords us an opportunity to waste the resources we’ve been given. Each day gives us a chance to be one day further away from success. Every day we waste can be rust gathering on the ball-bearing, which slowly grinds your career to a halt. No single day of sprinting or no single day of laziness will lead to your total success or failure.
It’s a sum total of the efforts spent over time. It is therefore very important to spend your days wisely. One who is wise realizes that there are only so many hours in the day that can be spent working. One must sleep. One must rest. One must be more than a sales person. You have to pay bills, and go to the DMV, and buy groceries, and cook food. Setting aside specific hours for work and protecting those hours is one of the most efficient ways to have a successful day. Protect your working hours by creating bookends around them.
Creating and Using Bookends
Bookends are probably going the way of the Rolodex. But in the same way a bookend can hold books up on the shelf, a morning and evening ritual can keep your hours propped up throughout the day. I don’t know if that’s a clear analogy, email me if it’s not.
What I’m advocating for is something that you start your day with and end your day with every day, so that it’s easier to keep the work hours contained within those two things. So that it’s easier to stop working and do some of this other stuff that’s necessary when the day’s over.
An effective morning ritual contains just a few elements. First, you do something that puts you in a good mood, a cup of coffee, checking on your investments, reading a comic, whatever lifts your spirits. Try and keep it to about five minutes, maybe 10 in total.
Next to something that puts you in the right frame of mind. If you figured out your why, this is a great time to review it. I have mine written down and I read it out loud every day. I highly encourage you to physically write out your why every morning as part of your ritual, we covered your why last week you should have it dialed in.
Finally make your first task something that’s easy to complete. It can either be something fun or that one thing that you have to do every day and it would be nice to have it over with. The only requirement is that it’s actually work and it can be checked off quickly. Again, we’re talking five minutes or less, because now you’ve started your day.
Now let’s talk about the evening ritual. I like it to contain only a few things so that it’s not a 30 minute thing I have to do at the end of every day. It should be quick.
First. I’d like to document something good from my day. I actually have a journal where I write down something I’m grateful for or a piece of praise I received. Something that you can look back on in days to come and just think fondly. It doesn’t have to be like in a notebook, but it’s not going to hurt.
Second tie off any loose ends. Now, wait a minute. What I’m afraid you heard me say is do anything you still have outstanding. That’s not what I’m talking about. As salespeople we’re always going to have more work than we have hours in the day . What I’m talking about is tying off embarrassing, loose ends. This is your moment to think over your day, just for a few moments and see if there’s anything you promised anyone that you didn’t do: a recap, email, a PDF, a calendar invite it. Shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes. This is not again, your time to do another 30 minutes of tasks. It should just help you get some perspective on the day and make sure you didn’t miss anything mission critical.
Third and most importantly, completely clock out. Look over your calendar, see what time you need to start work the next day. Is anyone expecting anything from you at a certain time? Then I set my alarm for the next morning, before I clock out. And then I clock out for the rest of the day. I don’t check my email. I’m not perusing, LinkedIn, just be done for the day. Put a good day’s work on the shelf and just be done with it. Know that you’ve done enough to be successful over the long-term. If you never stop working, you can never truly start working again. If you just have one big, long 24 hour period, you’re never going to be done with one day and start with the next. You’re going to burn out. You can never truly be done. At some point you just have to stop working. There will always be more to do tomorrow.
Protect Your Work and Personal Hours
Once you have a strong morning ritual and you have a strong evening ritual to kind of bookend those work hours, it gets a lot easier to protect them and make them success. Because if you’re only working between the bookends and then you clock out, you can enjoy your life. When you’re clocked out, you can do the things that are personal, that want to encroach on your work day. You can easily pushed to those after work hours, the things that you enjoy doing like playing video games, or watching a movie. If you have those bookends, it doesn’t matter how long your day is or how short your day is, whatever you decide you’re working that day is when you’re working and you work. And then when you’re done, you stop working.
This is incredibly important. If you’re going to do this for your career, you have to find a way to live your life and do your job, not at the same time, but in the same day. And if you can build a series of those successful days over and over and over again, success is at the end of that road. There’s no way to really stop it.