Are you doing things for the first time EVERY time?

Are your "firsts" leading to success or failure?

All of us have experienced hundreds of “firsts” in our lives: first day of school, first kiss, first car, first job…Many of these firsts are powerful rites of passage, and so worth celebrating.

But, if you’re like a lot of entrepreneurs, you’re at risk for another type of “first” – one that sucks your energy away, wastes time, and sabotages success.

That’s the kind of “first” you’ve done a zillion times before.

Sound odd? It really isn’t, not if you think in terms of reinventing the wheel. For example, have you ever:

These are only a few examples of ways in which you can bog yourself down by approaching recurring activities and projects as if each time were the first time.

So how can you get out of your own way if this is a challenge for you?

Templates are our friends.

Once you’ve created an effective format for any sort of product you plan to create on a regular basis, save it as a template. Then, when it’s time to produce the next newsletter/blog post/survey/etc., you’ve already got the skeleton ready to be fleshed out.

While this process works well for an activity you do continually, such as writing a blog post, it also works well for very short-term projects.

For example, the continuing education program at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids produces an annual women’s conference. When the call for 2017 speaking proposals went out, I realized several areas of my expertise would tie in beautifully with the conference theme. This meant submitting multiple proposals, all of which required the same information (e.g., speaker bio and contact information, length of workshop, course description, learner take-aways, etc.).

I realized I really didn’t want to key in my name, contact info, and section headings for each proposal. I created a template with sections for all requested data, filling in data that was duplicated. I saved this generic form, customized it with information specific to each  particular topic, and did a “save as” on each topic-specific proposal.

The outcome? I saved myself a lot of time and tedious re-typing of information that was the same for each proposal, was able to spend that saved time on creating compelling content and a powerful description, and recently learned I’ve been selected to present three different breakout sessions to my ideal prospects next March. [Insert happy dance here.]

Processes are powerful productivity enhancers.

In fact, they’re just as useful for recurring activities as templates are for recurring products you create.

When you’re trying something for the first time, you’re bound to bumble around a bit as you figure out what you’re doing. That’s to be expected; it’s part of the learning experience, and totally acceptable.

What’s not acceptable is bumbling through the steps every single time you tackle the activity. This is particularly likely to happen if you only do the task intermittently (can you say “file quarterly taxes”?).

Instead, when you know you’re going to be faced with the same basic activity again in the future, make a list of the steps you took to do it the first time. This way, you don’t have to clutter your brain with remembering how you did it; you can just refer to your notes listing the steps you took to get the job done.

Bottom line: Bullet-point lists can make you less stressed and way more productive.

Templates for processes are the best of both worlds.

I love this two-fer. It’s ideal for situations in which you’re offering a service to clients for (truly) the first time.

If you’d been considering this new service as a one-off, instead explore the possibility of adding it to your standard list of offerings. Then, as you provide said service for the first time, take notes on the steps you took, what worked and what didn’t, resources you found useful…Anything that will make doing it the next time faster, easier, and more efficient.

Intention + implementation + evaluation = effectiveness.

Now that I’ve got you thinking about not doing things for the first time every time, I’m going to switch things around and propose that doing things for the first time can be an important step to growing your business and yourself – if you do it right.

The trick to doing things for the first time in a way that will propel you forward is to be strategic and intentional about choosing what those things are. This is very different than jumping on every bandwagon that presents itself, because you’re evaluating potential new activities in light of your clearly defined business goals.

If you’re not trying new things, chances are good that you’re getting stuck in your comfort zone. And that’s a prime way to become the poster child for one of Bob Dylan’s more trenchant observations: “S/he not busy being born is busy dying.”



So what are some ways you’ve found to avoid reinventing the wheel AND to effectively experiment with new activities and behaviors? What works well for you? Please share in the Comments section below so we can take advantage of it (in the most grateful way possible, of course). And please share this post on social media – there are a LOT of people out there who haven’t figured this out yet.

In fact, maybe you’ve realized you’re prone to the not-so-useful version of doing things for the first time every time and have no idea what to do about it. If that’s the case, I’ll bet I can help.

My specialty is asking the tough questions that will create clarity, focus, and confidence as you build your business – and holding you accountable for implementing the answers we come up with.

Although I’m confident I can do this for you, the question is, Would it be in everyone’s best interests? There’s one easy way to find out: Set up a no-charge, no-risk get-acquainted call. Just grab a spot in my calendar and we’ll explore the possibility of working together so you become more efficient and effective.

Never considered working with an as-needed butt kicker before? Then this exploration is a get-outside-your-comfort-zone “first” that you owe it to your business to set up. The real  question is this: Will you do it, or will it end up on the list of “great ideas I never acted on”?

(Thanks to Barney Moss for posting the image of his daughter’s first day at school in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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