Author Jason Womack's broad grin and twinkling eyes aren't an act--he has been happy every single time I've met him. After teaching high school for five years, Womack worked with the David Allen Company, giving over 300 seminars on "Getting Things Done." He's passionate about helping others through his work and through his books. His latest, Your Best Just Got Better, has some simple and useful elements entrepreneurs can learn. I had a conversation with him at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, event last month.
What are the key take-aways of the book for entrepreneurs?
The core of the book is about working smarter by managing time, thinking bigger by building your network and vision, and finally "making more"—which is not always about money. When you've reached a certain point you can ask "What am I here for, how can I contribute?"
You said, "entrepreneurs need to know when they're done." What does that mean?
Often, people are a year into their business, but just scratching by. They want to be in the business, but they're about to fall into the classic e-myth problem, and they're going to work in the business and be stuck there. "Is the way that I did things going to be the way I continue to do things?" In the initial part of the book are lessons to gain control of how you are working. One of the efficiency factors is to know when a project is finished--good rather than great--just good enough.
What's a good example of "just good enough?"
You reach a pivot point and you have to do something, like let go of an employee that is good rather than great. You don't get a renewal, or you lose a contract, you cut a loss or abandon a partner firm. In most instances it's harder to fire someone and train someone new, or get a new partner, but in the long term that's the effort it takes to go from good to great.
You emphasize thinking time for entrepreneurs—but they're so busy...
Thinking time is a significant piece of Chapter 5. Small business owners may look at one of these pivot points as time to reflect on "how I messed up," but I'm encouraging them to use it as a time to move forward and leave behind what they thought was working.
People learn in different ways--auditory, visual, kinesthetic. So what do they need to hear, to start to attract that next level of information to get them to their goal? What conference, what podcast, or who can they call to hash out their idea? What do they need to see, look at, or watch? If I tried something that didn't work, I might seek out a video, an infographic, watch a TED talk, anything to get inspired, to get out of where I got stuck. Remember, it's not that I failed--it's that I need to keep moving.
What are some tips for working effectively?
How often are you interrupted? One client is an architect with a staff of 15. One of his staff interrupted him 27 times in 2 days. So they created a process of intervention. They wrote down what they needed to discuss on 3 x 5 cards and met at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. In a month they had cut out interruptions and were working more efficiently. They cut back on emails as well. Ask, "If I have my employee wait 2 hours, will she find an answer instead of waiting for the answer?"
What are other tips for efficiency?
I call people on the :53 of the hour. "Hi, it's 10:53, I have an 11 o'clock. But can we talk and get a conversation started?" There's a 7-minute window for a transaction—I share something or I get something quickly. This is not for starting a new problem or building a relationship. Afterwards I follow up, send a note or set up a plan.
How can people "think bigger?"
The people someone connects with the most are their influencers. I suggest they meet once a month with someone they want to add to their network: a successful author, blogger, businessperson or speaker who is willing to hang out and move dialog forward. People love to help, but beyond that, they love knowing that they helped us. But we don't usually teach mentees how to debrief their last mentorship discussion. For auditory person, I have them call two weeks or 10 days later. For visual learners, write a letter, etc. That way the mentor gets a specific object that gives them the feedback, and encourages them to do more of what is working. If someone mentoring me makes a recommendation—I have to do it. I have to read a book, watch a video, they suggest. If I don't, it lets mentor know that I'm wasting their time.