Can You Run Your Practice From an Index Card?
To understand where the Pillar System fits into your business or career, you must recognize that being good at something is different than being successful. The skills required to run a successful business differ radically from the trade skills used within the business. For example, there are mechanics who, blindfolded, can tell you what’s wrong with your car, but they can’t necessarily run a successful auto repair shop. You can also see this distinction among authors. Great writers aren’t compensated as well or recognized as much as writers who are good at promoting and selling a book. That’s why you hear the term “best-selling author” not “best-writing author.”
Many talented, hard-working, and highly skilled people have yet to reach the level of success they’re capable of. A primary reason is they don’t have the skills and/or strategy to run themselves or their businesses. I often find that talented professionals who are stuck don’t need more ideas. They need a strategy. The Pillar System is designed for just this purpose. It uses the concept of focus management to help you develop a simple business strategy to achieve your goals, so simple that the strategy can fit on an index card.
The problem isn’t that you don’t have enough time
An honest analysis of our work lives reveals there’s more than enough time to be successful. Look around your office or think about those with a similar job or business. The people who work the most hours aren’t always the most successful, and the people who work the fewest hours aren’t always at the back of the pack.
Time management has its place, but when it comes to getting results, the key is focus management, i.e., what we intentionally choose to focus on. Focus, not time, is our true limiting resource—specifically, our ability to get and stay focused on cognitively demanding activities (CDAs) for a given length of time. CDAs are activities that require significant mental resources such as creating, synthesizing, decision making, exercising willpower, and problem solving.
Think about your own workdays and answer the following questions:
- What typically runs out first during the day? Is it time, or is it your ability to get and stay focused on activities that require significant mental resources?
- What are you doing toward the end of your workday? Are you effectively creating, innovating, and prospecting (CDAs), or are you staying busy with “work-related” tasks?
To succeed with a finite amount of focus, the CDAs you choose to focus on must be high-leverage activities, i.e., those with a significant positive impact relative to the amount of time and energy you expend. Some CDAs have a much bigger return on time investment than others. Other CDAs, such as spending 45 minutes dealing with a difficult customer, have little return on investment. Consequently, increasing your mental energy reserves or working additional hours, without improving focus management, won’t move the needle. You’ll just have more time and energy to work on low- or no-impact activities.
Are you taking the scenic route or the highway?
Think of driving. If the same car takes the scenic route or the highway until the gas tank (mental energy) runs out, both will have exhausted their resources, but the car on the highway will have traveled a greater distance. The Pillar System makes sure you’re always driving on the highway.
Let’s consider this in terms of professional productivity and success. In any business or project, there are more things to do than time to do them.
The Pillar System makes sure you’re always driving on the highway.
Why do some of us stay busy all day without moving the needle while others make leaps and bounds, seemingly without breaking a sweat?
People in the latter group identify high-leverage activities and focus on them at the expense of everything else. People in the former group spend most of their time “doing” and “reacting.” Whether it’s intentional or not, they prioritize activity over results.
At first glance, joining the successful group seems simple
You just identify and prioritize your high-leverage activities. However, as I worked through the process of helping myself, my partners, and my clients transition, I realized that most people can’t correctly identify their highest leverage activities. And if they did, they lacked the ability to execute them consistently week in and week out.
After considerable trial and error, a simplification of their business through the establishment of a custom set of “pillars” yielded the best results. We identified these pillars by running all their potential activities through a system of specific questions and criteria to determine the most critical, high-leverage ones to focus on. The result was a short list of realistic weekly activities (pillars) that, when executed on consistently, all but guaranteed success in any viable business or project.
The Pillar System reduces everything you could be doing with your time down to those activities (pillars) that, when executed consistently, have the greatest impact on the health and/or growth of your business.
In a world where the true limiting resource is focus, not time, pillars proved to be the answer
When identified correctly, pillars could align what a person or organization wanted to accomplish with what they actually did on a week-to-week basis. These pillars, the completion of which was 100% in the person’s control, became a simple but powerful business plan that could fit on an index card. I added a second step of creating a Custom Accountability Program to turn weekly pillar execution into a habit and the Pillar System was born.
Does this index card look like the weekly strategy for 40 percent year-over-year growth, an additional $70 Million in business and losing 35 pounds? Well it was for a client who committed to the Pillar System.
Being a great mechanic doesn’t guarantee success
Just because a mechanic is a whiz at fixing cars doesn’t guarantee that he’ll have a successful business. The same can be true for advisors who might be awesome at building portfolios or client relationships, and yet, their business flounders. Use the Pillar System to create a simple strategy for your practice. A strategy to cut through the clutter and move you toward clarity, simplicity and most importantly…results.
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The Pillar System provides you with day-to-day, hour-to-hour clarity in terms of what you must do to move your business or project forward. When you lack clarity, you’re easily distracted. Decisions made without clarity can be detrimental to your progress.
Brian Margolis is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. Productivity.com is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.