When you sit down and ponder all things business you discover that when working on a long-term project or towards a distant goal process is everything. Your ultimate goal is important of course but it’s loving the process itself that gets you there.
When you have a daunting road ahead the best way to travel it is to relish each step of the way and enjoy the process as you go because, strangely enough, you become more effective, productive and creative when you do. Let me explain.
Recently, as you may be aware I’ve been working on the new book ‘The Game of Inches’, where over the past few months I've been reminded of the importance of loving the process.
Like business, writing a book is an adventure in its own right. One could say, with the risk of being berated for using one of the most overworked and cliché buzzwords of all, a ‘journey’. This is because when you start you are filled with excitement and drive but pretty quickly reality sets in ehwn you realise the task ahead is greater, more difficult and complex than you ever imagined. Then once you get your head around that and start progressing challenges begin to occur, holes in your plan show up, tangents which need exploring appear and then new challenges present themselves. And on it goes. And all the while you need to stay upbeat, driven, creative and solution oriented. What you thought would take a matter of months ends up taking a lot longer, possibly years.
So basically it’s no different to any other business project or business goal.
When the deadline came in for the finished manuscript the first thing I did was get out my calendar and figure out exactly how many words I needed to write each day and everyday, about 1500. Cool because that’s more than achievable. Trouble was some days I needed to do more research, line up more interviews, recontact people, get side-tracked with other priorities (I still had a string of engagements) or simply couldn’t get my brain working. So the word count kept blowing out until pretty soon it crept up to 2000 then 2200 which meant each day I missed the word count I was either frustrated or starting to feel the pressure. Admittedly though some days I was so in the flow that I’d easily exceed the word count and so it crept back down, meaning I was rather happy and relaxed until the next hiccup occurred. Through all of this I also noticed another interesting thing occurring. Each morning I’d read back over what I’d done the previous day and some days I was quite chuffed with myself. Other days, though, I wasn’t because I found I was writing just for the sake of hitting the word count and as a result quality suffered. I would then spend time going back and reworking those parts.
Then when my mentor suggested I stop focusing on the word count and start focusing on the process of writing and savouring each moment things changed.
Here are some of the reasons loving the process is so important.
It takes the pressure off.
Deadlines are essential and without them nothing tends to get done. But strangely, just knowing the deadline was in place and then focusing on doing what needed to be done got me there faster. If you are constantly checking your progress the more stressed you become, and the more you stressed become the harder it is to think clearly and calmly because your brain gets foggy. Just focusing on the writing or the researching or the interviewing meant I was cranking along faster and doing better work. It was also so much more enjoyable.
It helps get you in ‘flow’
The fact that I fell in love with the doing part meant that I did it well and did it efficiently. When you do something you enjoy it becomes effortless and just seems to crank along. In other words you are in the zone or in ‘flow’. This makes sense when you look at work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is his book ‘Flow’ because he refers to flow as ‘an holistic experience that people feel when they act with total involvement’. Think about it, those times you’re in flow are not just the most enjoyable but also the most productive.
It gives you small achievable steps
It’s a daunting thing to look at a project and all that needs to be accomplished for it to succeed. But like all things if you approach it step-by-step, inch-by-inch, it becomes achievable. Not just physically but mentally as well. It’s one of the main benefits of ‘The Game of Inches’ because small steps win big results.
It gives you a better reward system
There’s a lot to be said for feeling good about accomplishing something and rewarding yourself for a job well done. By focusing on the process you can feel good and reward yourself for what you do and for the effort you put in rather than the outcome. This is important because as Carol Dweck suggests in her book ‘Mindset’ if you focus on a tangible outcome only (i.e. 2000 words) and miss it you then start to feel inadequate and the stress begins to build.
To savour the process is not just a joyous experience but also a productive one. Does that mean goal and deadlines aren’t important? Of course not, it’s just that once they are in place, be aware of them, check in every so often to make sure you are on track but when you are working, doing, taking action and making things happen you need to focus on the process. If you love the (dare I say it) journey, not only will you be more productive, more focused, more effective but you’ll also enjoy yourself more.
Published by Wiley 'The Game of Inches; small change wins BIG results' is due out in May, 2016.