Not only on a professional level, but on a societal level we seem predisposed to always want to blame someone if something doesn’t go right. This is unfortunate. All we gain from this is some false level of comfort.

There are plenty of times when someone isn’t to blame for something that has happened. I would argue that more times than others, things fail for a multitude of reasons where many each have a small role in what happened. All we could really say is that the situation went bad.

Yet even in these cases we want to blame someone. We have an extremely hard time to accept collective failure and want to find the scapegoat, to little real effect. Blaming such a scenario on just one single person is ultimately only going to make us feel marginally better and will definitely not go to any lengths ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.

Blaming someone for something that didn’t go to plan is natural and comforting, but we should take care in overdoing it. Finding a scapegoat when there is in fact no clear one is contra-productive and will only make things far worse. A lot of the time a series of unfortunate consequences just happen without any specific person actually being at fault. We should learn to accept this.

On Effective Emails

I get my fair bit of email every day. Probably more than the average person, but nowhere near as much as people who really do get a lot of email. What I see everyday is failure to write good, effective emails. Thus, I want to touch on this a little bit.

What is an effective email? To me this is very clear. An effective email is one that achieves the desired result, completing the reason for it being sent in the first place. Whether it is someone agreeing to help you, someone giving you the right information that you wanted or someone answering a question that you had, an effective email will increase the chances of a positive and timely response.

Let’s consider written communication for a moment. It is tricky. There are fewer nuances than when we speak with one another and the interpretation is even more in the hands of the reader. “Communication is what the listener does” applies here more than ever. For this reason, we need to always be writing emails in the mindset of the specific recipient.

An effective email is short, to the point and clearly structured while still being polite (nine times out of ten, that passive aggressive sentence is totally uncalled for). You need to specifically put yourself in the mind of the specific person you are writing any given email to, and write to reach your goals.

If I get an email that is just a wall of text with the desired action buried, it is hard for me to process. I may well have to read the email twice, first to know what the person wants and second to get the context. Thus, lead with the reason for you writing the email. This is something you were taught when writing letters: “I am writing to you in regards to…”.

Another tip is to make sure the indented respondent can reply quickly to your email by asking a specific question, or even limiting the initial response to just a yes/no situation. The easier it is to respond, the more likely you are to receive a timely reply.

As you see, it is all about putting yourself in the mind of the recipient. What type of person is he/she? How would he/she read this text? How can I make it easy for him/her to answer quickly and positively to my request?

Keep thinking about all of these things and I assure you that the people you email will be happier, and you will have many more favorable and quick answers to your emails. Plus, you’ll quickly be known as that person who is great at email.

On Prioritizing

We all have 24 hours a day. It might seem like a cliché, but eventually you might run up against having many more great ideas that you want to pursue than you have hours in the day to do them in.

The solution is definitely not to sleep less, or work crazy hours. Your body and mind can’t sustain that. Instead, what successful and smart people do is realize this limitation and do one of the following:

  1. Prioritizing. Focus on the truly awesome ideas, giving the merely great ones a miss.
  2. Increasing Productivity, giving them more hours to spend on executing greatness.

It can be hard to pass on a great idea. You just have to make sure that what you instead chose to work on is even better and bring even better returns.

Having loads of improvements you want to do is great. It means you see potential for change. The trick however is knowing which ones to focus on, knowing that you (sadly) can’t do them all.

If you’re a small business owner you have probably encountered this dilemma plenty of times before. A project comes up that you truthfully don’t feel like taking, but can’t reject because it would bring in a decent amount of cash. End result? The project lingers on and turns ugly.

This has happened far too many times than I would like to admit. Each time, I promise myself that I should never take these kinds of projects again, trusting my gut feeling. And yet, it happens again and again.

In fact, this year I have turned this into a new years resolution of sorts, not taking projects like this, despite them securing a bit of cash. As small business owners, we of course love financial stability. It is easy to forgo the alternative cost, that is, not having time to do a more lucrative project (either in motivation, financials or both) that comes along shortly thereafter.

So, I’d like to stress what I think we all know deep down. Most of the time, this extra financial stability now, is not worth the troubles that this project might bring. Turn it out and sleep like a baby afterwards. Trust your gut feeling and go with your instincts on this. Chances are, you will not regret it.

On Saying No

Saying no is something I find very tricky. Whether it is for friends or clients, I am a person who loves to help others and see others succeed. Part of this is why I enjoy doing what I do, but it also makes it tricky to say no.

Not saying no however has dire implications for yourself. That is, you will inevitably end up spending so much time doing this for others and overloading yourself with various type of work that you neglect your own well-being.

Sadly, there is no magical recipe for saying no, other than to start doing it and practice. Start with smaller things. One of the best techniques, that will also capture your professionalism, is to offer alternatives rather than just blatantly blurting out a no.

Offering an alternative solution and course of action for the person will free you of the obligation, which let’s face it you really didn’t have time for if you are honest with yourself, while still sounding professional, since you are in fact partly helping them move on to a solution.

I am really bad at saying no, but I keep practicing. For my own well-being.