Under ideal circumstances you will know what to do next in your business. How often will you find yourself in ideal circumstances? Not often. Perhaps never. 

A regular practice of reflection and planning, particularly with old-fashioned pen and paper, can work wonders in less-than-ideal circumstances. 

Founders, owners, and CEOs can create space where you dredge up all of your uncertainty and air it out. Before long, the shape of specific problems and opportunities will emerge through the fog. As you cogitate and fill in more details, your clarity will expand. With clarity comes confidence, and with confidence comes decisive action.

Most leaders I know don’t have an indecision problem. They struggle with scheduling margin, which, in turn, brings clarity, confidence, and action. Margin spurs effective action.

You can’t be truly strategic while you’re fighting fires. It’s hard to think of the future at all. 

By scheduling margin, however, you create more open doors through which breakthroughs can come. You gain perspective on the fires, or problems, plaguing your business and know them by their size.

Three Sizes of Problems

Every business has baby problems, teenager problems, and Dwayne Johnson problems. Most problems aren’t Dwayne Johnson problems ready to tear your business limb from limb. Some problems even resolve on their own. You can ignore them until they go away.

How do you differentiate between a mewling baby who must learn to self-soothe and Dwayne Johnson with a chainsaw and a vendetta?

For example, how should my team at Balernum respond when a client doesn’t like the first round of logo concepts? Here’s one option:

“Oh no! Hair on fire! Let’s running screaming off a cliff!”

For a client to not like something Balernum creates is certainly inconvenient, discouraging even. Yet, we have an incredible track record of making our clients happy, and our clients’ loyalty has translated into a high lifetime value.

So the “work” of effective action then becomes 1) do not freak out, 2) do not mistake a baby for Dwayne Johnson, and 3) do give the baby problem appropriate attention at the appropriate time. 

If we were to fall prey to dark portents of how a client being unhappy might just be the beginning of the end, then we would waste creativity and energy.

Time spent working ourselves into a funk cannot also be spent giving the baby a bottle. (Is it me or are these analogies getting weird?)

Escape tactical hell by scheduling margin.

You’ve heard the phrase, “the tyranny of the urgent.” You might have even encountered some of Robert Greene’s writing on tactical hell and how you, as a leader, need to get out of it, to move from reactive to proactive.

The real opportunity I see for Balernum’s clients, and really for all founders, executives, and CEOs, is to schedule margin, to sort problems according their size, and to return to a growth mindset.

In the past my fixed or scarcity mindset has warped my vision. Baby problems became Dwayne Johnson. Running my business felt like battling an army of giants.

I’m a passionate person by nature, but by learning to be more dispassionate during moments of conflict and disappointment, I have avoided overreacting.

I have avoided turning babies into Dwayne Johnsons by speaking or acting too soon. I have spent less time stewing on perceived slights, threats, and unfairnesses and more time finishing truly important tasks, projects, and ideas. (We must sometimes let babies cry themselves to sleep.) I have also begun to notice more trends like these: 

  1. A fixed or scarcity mindset is the true saboteur, not any particular customer, problem, or circumstance.
  2. A growth mindset benefits our client, our competitors, our contractors, our families, and our communities. 
  3. Real Dwayne Johnson problems usually don’t spring into existence overnight. They hide in plain view for months. Torturous workout routines give them terrific biceps. To notice them before they blindside you, you must schedule margin.
  4. Many of our clients don’t schedule margin, but they will pay us to schedule it for them.

You can pay us to schedule your margin.

The way we do it is pretty simple. (Honestly, you could do it yourself on your front porch with a pen and journal and the right set of questions.) 

We use a process called Wayfinding to help our clients get clarity, set direction, and define next steps. You bring us your problems and opportunities. You pay us to push around your appointments until we’ve created 90 minutes of margin. We peel layers off the onion. We help you get your hands on the real problem or opportunity. Then, we work side-by-side to sort your problems and develop the right sequence of action steps.

We deliver the complete written Wayfinding Report (or, map) that you can implement with or without our help. Our Wayfinding clients’ problems and their desired outcomes have varied widely. 

Here are some examples of past Wayfinding Sessions:

  • A media production company needed help outlining the minimum marketable feature set for photo editing app. Without that project brief they had no way to get accurate quotes from dev shops.
  • A registered investment advisor was worried about overspending on a website redesign project. He needed help articulating his firm’s real needs and defining the project’s scope.
  • An IP attorney wanted more clients. He eventually realized that his branding and positioning missed the mark. We fixed that.
  • A serial entrepreneur developed his personal brand and story and started publishing more content to position himself as a thought leader and generate more high-value client leads.
  • A higher ed consultant wanted more speaking gigs, but she didn’t know where to start. 
  • A veteran technologist wanted to use LinkedIn to build awareness for his coding bootcamps.
  • An iOS development agency wanted better clients with bigger budgets. We developed the plan for a website redesign, blog, internal process documents, and lead magnet.

One Wayfinding client had this to say about his experience:

“I came to you thinking that I needed to send out an email every week and write some great blog posts. In reality I didn’t know what I needed, I just needed change. Over the last few months I have uncovered that problem and exposed it to not only myself but also to my business partner and some of the managers I work with. Meeting with you opened my eyes to fact that I don’t have a huge problem connecting to clients. I have a problem with the way we run our business. We are in the process of fixing this. I may get to the point one day that I can send out a post every week, just not today.”

I encourage you to schedule margin Adopt a habit of reflection and planning at least once a week.

Ask yourself open-ended questions like these: 

  • “What is working well?” 
  • “What isn’t working well?” 
  • “What is most important right now?” 
  • “What seems important but really isn’t?”
  • “Am I using my time effectively? Am I playing to my strengths?”

Margin spurs effective action. Once you have clarity, you can stare down the latest Dwayne Johnson, cock your head to once side, and decide, “Naw. You’re just a baby. Put yourself to sleep.”

My sincere hope is that you'll open your calendar right now, pick a specific time on a specific day, and schedule your margin.

My Shameless Pitch for Wayfinding

Will you do it? Will you schedule margin? If the honest angel on your left shoulder is whispering, “Probably not,” then pay Balernum to do it for you.

We’d love to send you away with clarity and a clear plan of attack.

Fill out this short questionnaire, and Austin or Chris will reach out within 24 hours (weekends excluded; we’ve got real babies who need us, ya’ll.)