We’ve been talking about intent at the office recently, and how it changes so much about business, success, and life. As we round out the last of 2016 and head into the new year, let us at Unito.io suggest to you a good resolution, if you’re looking for one. Be more intentful. We integrate tools for business at Unito, so let’s talk about being more intentful in that respect.
Intent is a verb.
Okay, not literally. But to bring intent into what you do, you need to be active about it. You need to create an intent, build a plan to fulfill that intent, and then use it to drive you and others around you to fulfill a goal. There are 3 primary areas where knowledge workers tend to lose a lot of time and feel a lot of frustration, and they’re all tied to intent: work, meetings & events, and culture.
You’ve seen this problem before—heck, you probably even had this problem today. There are 250 things which need to get done, and you can maybe do 5 of them. You run around doing whatever is urgent and get 10 things done halfway. At the end of the day feel like you’ve made no progress at all. When you can carve out half an hour to work on something, you don’t have time to think about the best way to solve it so you throw something together that’s hopefully good enough. You’re stuck reacting to everything and planning very little. If you give away control of what you’re doing to outside pressures, you’re basically ceding use of your brain to someone else. You have your job because your brain is good at solving the problems that are unique to your profession. Why give control to other people?
Meetings & Events
We talk about this a lot here, and one of the key uses for Unito is to help reduce meetings. But in the modern meeting culture, way too much of our collective time is lost. It gets sucked up in meetings that exist for bad reasons, that are held with little in the way of planning, and which drag on long after they should. Likewise, almost every entrepreneur knows the hustle and buzz of attending networking events every weekday for a month feels super productive. It’s also all too common to reach the end of that month with nothing improved. By going to events without a list of who you want to talk to, or by accepting a recurring meeting that you’re not really sure is useful to you, you’re showing up and hoping for the best instead of driving an agenda and controlling what you want.
Every company talks about culture: having a great team is the best way to keep everyone performing at a high level and to retain talent in a competitive market. But what does your company do to actively encourage a great culture? Company ping pong tables, open office plans, or “no asshole” hiring policies aren’t going to cut it. Every company is composed of the people who work for it, so what have you done to reinforce a positive culture in your company? Does everyone show up to meetings on time and well-prepared? Do you value each other’s opinions? How openly can you admit to failure in your company?
At Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos has long required that a meeting cannot be called until a 2-page summary of the problem at hand and agenda for the meeting has been created. All meetings start with 5 minutes of silence while the attendees quietly read the briefing so that they can all understand the issue wholly before discussing it. That’s a pretty tough policy, but it definitely tells you something about the culture of Amazon, doesn’t it?
Being intentful is a tool
Fundamentally, these three common problem areas all come from the same root cause of a lack of being intenful. That is to say, it is not enough to intend to do something (to intend is, after all, nearly a synonym for “to wish”). You must embody that intent, and use it as a tool for change. There are no hard and fast rules for what being intentful means: it could be you spend 20 minutes a day practicing French, or that you never accept a meeting unless it has an agenda attached that you’ve already read. That said, here’s what we brainstormed at the office as key elements for us that help you form and execute intent:
Build a plan for what you want to achieve
Intent starts with knowing what you want, but that’s not enough. “I want more sales in 2017” is not a plan. “I am going to prospect 3 enterprise sales customers a week in 2017” is closer. There is a clearly defined goal that you can regularly check on in the short term, but it lacks the “why”. You need long-term intent of what you’re really trying to achieve. “I am going to prospect 3 enterprise sales customers a week in 2017 so that I can earn an additional $500k in ARR each quarter” is a pretty solid start on a plan.
Decide how you will execute it
It’s not enough to just plan out work (sorry). Once you have a plan set with a goal in mind and long-term reason for that goal, you need to make sure that you’re taking steps every day to implement that plan. Be consistent and relentless. Intent is a game that takes a long time to play. It’s like investing savings. The initial growth is small, but as the effort compounds it pays off in big ways.
1.01 ^ 365 = 37.78
.99^365 = 0.03
Intent, in the end, is about giving that 1% more effort than you normally would, and consistently pushing for improvement. Don’t be satisfied with where you are—there’s always room to be better.
Check in regularly with yourself
One thing that’s key to being intentful instead of simply having an intent is that you need to check yourself in a regular basis and see if you’re achieving the results that you want. I like bullet journaling as a way to make myself reflect on my goals and see what progress I’ve made on a weekly basis. Forcing myself to write down my plans for the week by hand gives me the time to think things through and plan them. You may have another tool you use, a weekly standup or a Sunday morning jog. It is not important how you do it, but that you do. Be honest with yourself here: it’s easy to make excuses for why things didn’t get done, or how other things were more important than the goals that you’d set for yourself. Research suggests that willpower gets stronger the more you use it, so put in the time and practice to get better at influencing the world around you through a mindful and intentful approach to being. Find the tool that you need to get better at what you do, and then apply it diligently.
Which brings us back to Unito, I suppose. We’re a tool that you can use to fix some common and very thorny problems that every office deals with: siloing information, lack of accountability on handoffs, no high level roadmap of what everyone is doing, and improved collaboration between teams. But tools don’t do a job by themselves. You can’t buy timber, nails, and a hammer and expect that you will spontaneously have a house. That’s true for Unito, too. If you connect your sales team in Asana with your developers in GitHub and figure the job’s done now and your company will have no more problems in the future, you may want to think through things more carefully. Building the process for the sales and development teams to work together ahead of time, require that teams stick to the process or else work doesn’t get done, tying performance packages for the sales team to respecting the process, monitoring and improving the process over time, and so on will all pay off in a company that works better together. Assuming that everyone can magically figure out how to cooperate once you’ve put the tools in place will not.
So in 2017, don’t have intents. Don’t wish for the better thing. Resolve to be intentful. Make that thing happen.