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April 10, 2009

Breathe!

by mikediliberto

“I’m too busy getting things done to get things organized!”

For anyone that has worked or is working at a startup, you are sure to hear this all the time;  things are hectic, crazy, disorganized, and everyone is so focused on bringing in revenue or designing the next killer product that they never take the time to step back and analyze what they are doing to determine if that is what they should be doing.

I have been very lucky in my career to have had some absolutely great mentors to guide my way over the years;  more often than not, these mentors have been people that I worked for, often after convincing them that they should hire me and help guide my career path to the next level.  Did I mention that I’m in sales?  I recently read a great blog post by one of my fellow Brazen Careerist bloggers, Sydney Owen, on how to find a mentor.  The basic premise is you need to identify the right person and be assertive with them, offer them something, and listen to what they have to say.  Seems obvious, and Sydney does a much better job of highlighting how to go about the care and feeding of your mentor.

One of my first mentors was Kenneth Burrow, a division GM at Circuit City.  He taught me the value taking time to be introspective in the workplace.  His lessons to me have stayed with me through my entire career.  One of the most valuable of these was to instill in me the importance of taking a moment to step back and look at a situation, large or small, as just one part of the puzzle.  There were many times when I would let some tasks slide at the expense of others, but yet I had not taken the time to analyze which of those tasks should be priorities and which should not; to act without being analytical is a recipe for disaster.   Kenny was a great mentor in that he let me learn my lessons my way, by trying and changing until I found my groove.

Although I was working for a fortune 500 company at the time, these lessons in “taking a step back” were extremely valuable in later years working for several startups.  In many of these companies, everyone is so busy moving forward that they often forget that we have to steer as well; being able to take a step back, looking at how I am allocating my personal resources, seems so obvious, yet it takes a lot of effort to execute.

So next time you feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done, STOP!  take a moment, step back, breathe, and analyze the situation more objectivly.  The time spent taking the time to organize your project or analyzing how you are spending your time will pay back tenfold.  There are only so many hours in the day, the best thing that we can do is make sure that we are spending them well.

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