As small companies or owner-operators we are often left to figure out solutions to most of our problems on our own. This means that we are internally processing the solutions and can get stuck in a loop. We are only experiencing the conversation in one way and that tends to produce the same results. Imagine how many times just having someone to bounce an idea off of would have been helpful.
When we do get the rare opportunity to externalize our conundrum, we can generally have a solution for it that is different from our initial one, and we didn’t even need the help or input from that person. It’s not that their advice is not valid or helpful. It is just that when we are able to externalize our problems, we are not only saying them, we are hearing them and that gives way to a different processing mode. Even writing things down instead of only internally working through them can help you process differently.
The thing that brought this to my attention was the mastermind groups I host to allow for focused goal setting and accountability. They have been great for that. The participants are put in groups of five and meet every other week. This gives them time to focus on growing their business instead of just working on it. What I noticed was, although a lot of insights were being shared and perspectives exchanged, the group members had to not only share personal things they may otherwise be embarrassed about, but they also had to share the information in a way that was different than how they would normally process it.
Many times, before they even finished their story, they were already talking through a solution and how they know what needs to be done. It is the first time they felt empowered by overcoming an issue they are facing. Just hearing yourself speak on an issue can provide so much clarity to you. The solution, oftentimes, can be corroborated by fellow group members who have been through the situation and tried a few different approaches. Now you not only don’t feel foolish in your answer, but you also can see firsthand how others have been successful in overcoming it. Even if your answers are not the same, it leads to discussions where a collaborative environment creates an all-new solution that custom fits your business model.
As previously mentioned, writing your thoughts down can be a great way to externalize as well. We get them out of our head and stored somewhere else. They don’t have to be kept track of, they don’t need to be remembered, and they don’t stress us out anymore. Having a list of tasks to be completed, a scheduling board and written goals takes them all out of active memory. It frees up our mental space to better focus on our task at hand. The lists can be visited as often as needed. We can think about them, and then move on, knowing that we can come back. There is no need to have to constantly focus on needing to remember to call client A tomorrow at 5 p.m., schedule client B for Tuesday at 8 a.m., order material for project F in the morning, pick up your kid from swim practice at 4 p.m., get a gallon of milk after that, and pick up the dry cleaning. Just having a task list can make your life so much easier to manage.
The other reason for writing things down is that by listing then reading them, we can process the information differently. Journaling is not something I have ever made a habit of, but to those who notice, these articles are written in a way where I get to put my thoughts on paper so to speak. I write like I talk, and this gives me a way to process all the things I have learned and organize them into coherent systems and processes. Taking the time to write things down whether they are just daily tasks or schedules or your innermost thoughts and conflicts is going to help you gain a new perspective on what is happening around you, in you, and with you.
When you live with only internalizing your thoughts as a business owner, you are living more stressed than is needed. It will complicate your life more and make it far more difficult. I encourage you to at least write things down but even better yet is to find a trusted person or group to talk to on a regular basis. This will give each of you the opportunity to get things off of your chest so you can be more productive.