Category Archives: Bigger Picture
May 16, 2017
Over the past 15 years, I have become a Master Juggler. As both a mother and a business owner, I balance commitments such as business travel, all-team meetings and strategic planning with chaperoning field trips, …
Over the past 15 years, I have become a Master Juggler. As both a mother and a business owner, I balance commitments such as business travel, all-team meetings and strategic planning with chaperoning field trips, summer camp registration, carpool and birthday party planning. Plus, I have a husband, friends, extended family and a personal life. That’s a lot of balls in the air. I am often asked: “How do you get it all done? How do you accomplish absolutely everything!?”
I don’t know the answer to that question because I don’t do everything. Not even close.
The way that I get my stuff done is by not trying, not wanting, to do it all.
There is so, so much that I do not do. I’m not referring to delegating many tasks in my personal and professional life, (although delegation is essential and something I have learned to rely on over time.)
What I am talking about is saying no. Before you download a new time-management app or read one more article with tips to get organized, shift your focus. Instead of trying to get more done, give yourself less to do. It’s like my son’s bedroom: instead of organizing his piles of crap, we first need to sort through it and discard about half of it. That will simplify the organizing process.
Many years ago, SBC was a one woman show. I managed every function in the company, from reconciling bank statements to managing Google Ads to processing all orders. The company was growing and I was pulling many all-nighters, just trying to keep up. Finally, my husband intervened and showed me how to cut an 11-step process down to six steps. It turned out that I was doing a lot of unnecessary work. Instead of finding the time to get through all 11 steps, we said no to several steps, and that’s how I bought myself time.
When it comes to personal and professional obligations or requests from others, I must admit, saying “no” is hard for me. I don’t like to upset anyone, burn bridges or decline meaningful opportunities. Last week I decided to step down from my high school alumni council, walking away from a second three-year term. It’s a limited time commitment, a lot of fun and I enjoy the connection to my alma mater. But I had to say no, because these minor commitments add up and take me away from my priorities. I often run through my to-do list (which is the backbone of my organizational system) and cross items off the list as I decide they aren’t essential. That’s certainly a quick and easy way to “get things done!”
To say no, I must be very clear about my priorities (realizing that they change over time), and embrace events and commitments that make the most sense for me in the context of my schedule and personal plans. Like anything, it takes practice and there is no perfect. However, having “no” as a viable option is an important tool to leverage when trying to get it “all” done.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How is it that some people get so much more done than others? Perhaps they aren’t getting more done. Perhaps they are focused on getting the right things done.
What do you think? Are there things that you can eliminate from your to do list, in order to make room for what really matters to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me at bigpicture@StacyBlackman.com.
P.P.S. By the way, fun family time is absolutely something I say YES to. Here’s a clip from my family’s recent Spring Break trip to Japan:
May 2, 2017
Every night, without fail, I map out the following day in my calendar. I block off time for exercise, errands, family responsibilities, seeing friends and working on various projects. If I want something to happen …
Every night, without fail, I map out the following day in my calendar. I block off time for exercise, errands, family responsibilities, seeing friends and working on various projects. If I want something to happen on a certain day, I fit it into my calendar.
I like doing this, and the nerd in me likes looking at my calendar the night before. Not yet disturbed by heavier than expected street traffic, an emergency call from the elementary school nurse, a canceled meeting or feelings of laziness and inertia, my day still has the potential to be “perfect.” It’s the fantasy; I am organized, focused, productive, patient and full of energy and drive.
The flip side of this is that the bubble of perfection is popped many times throughout each day. I often end up feeling disappointed in myself, wondering how a given day dissolved into chaos, went off track and became so completely unproductive. Outside events easily interfere with my best laid plans. Internal events do as well; I can be derailed by sleepiness, frustration and a general lack of motivation.
Last night I set my alarm for 5AM so that I could have some quiet time to write this post before the day began. As I sit here writing, I am tempted to crawl back into bed. I am exhausted because I could not fall asleep last night after a Sunday night swim party. I am distracted because a delivery that was supposed to have arrived on my doorstep last night is not here. I keep getting up to check the front door, check my email confirmation of the delivery and check the tracking online. (Postscript: as my perfect day progressed, my daughter called from school to say she had forgotten her volleyball gear at home, my 3PM appointment was canceled, a key member of the SBC team let me know she needs to take a leave due to family health issues and there was fraud on my checking account which resulted in hours on the phone with the bank.)
My fantasy of this morning was a super intense, adrenaline fueled, undistracted work session. The reality is that I wrote a mediocre draft in a tired, distracted state. As for the rest of the day…real life quickly obliterated that perfect schedule.
In truth, this is a typical day: not perfect, rarely productive enough and never, ever unfolding as planned. However, when I reflect on my whole life – I realize that despite daily imperfection, I have built something great. My business, my family, my home, my community: it’s a big, happy life that grew by living and doing with consistency, every day for many years. And of course, it continues to evolve.
It’s refreshing to me to realize that pretty-good is good enough. I want to set the bar high, but perfection isn’t necessary. I love the expression, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Sometimes, crossing that one tedious task off the list is all we can muster, and that’s ok. It’s something. When we put a lot of something’s together, we get somewhere. We can get somewhere very good.
By the way, here’s a peek at what my fantasy calendar looks like the night before, when it’s still “perfect.”
April 18, 2017
Years ago, I traveled to Barcelona with a dear friend to celebrate her birthday. I remember wandering through the streets, discussing topics ranging from family to future vacation plans to our respective careers. I told her then …
Years ago, I traveled to Barcelona with a dear friend to celebrate her birthday. I remember wandering through the streets, discussing topics ranging from family to future vacation plans to our respective careers. I told her then that there was more I wanted to accomplish with Stacy Blackman Consulting; I wanted to explore topics beyond business school applications and tap into other ideas that are personally meaningful to me.
The problem was that my vision was blurry; I did not have a concrete idea or plan. I returned to Los Angeles vowing to work on this expansion and brainstorm my next moves.
A few weeks ago, I went out for a birthday lunch with that same friend. During our conversation, I realized with shock that three years had passed since Barcelona and I had not yet formulated my “plan.” That realization jolted me into action.
I had to do something now and that meant that I had to act before I was ready.
In truth, the times in my life when I have accomplished the most have all been when I took the plunge before I was “ready”.
- I was not remotely ready to have my first child – it’s now our joke – my son knows he’s my test case!
- A month after our wedding, my husband and I spontaneously packed up our apartment and traveled the world for four months without much of a plan, which occasionally landed us in interesting predicaments, but was an adventure we will forever treasure.
- When I launched my first company, which is now part of TheKnot.com, I knew nothing about e-commerce, web design, functional specs, NDAs, drafting business plans, raising money or anything else related to our business. The learning curve was steep that year!
- My original plan was to apply to business school a year later than I did. A friend in her first year at MIT Sloan advised me to go for it earlier, since it was already on my radar. I pulled together an application with the intention to reapply a year later when I was truly “ready”. However, I ended up being admitted to my dream school and the rest is history!
So here I am, writing a different kind of blog post, sharing a more personal aspect of myself, without much of a plan, and I am doing it before I am ready.
In truth, when are we ever ready? When do we just have piles of time and resources sitting around, waiting for us to begin? When do we have the perfect plan, the team, the money and everything figured out? I don’t suggest being impulsive and reckless, but I do think that “getting ready” can ultimately be a form of procrastination.
I’ve found that the very best way to get “ready” is to start taking action. Step by step and brick by brick we can build a foundation that makes us “ready”. Whether you are applying to business school, gearing up for a career change, thinking about buying a house or starting a family or hungering to launch a new business, you just need to begin.
Start this week. Start today…before you are ready. Take one step, and then another, and then you are on your way. I will be building by your side!
All my best,
P.S. Check out three of the very best things I created before I was ready.
April 17, 2017
For the past 16 years, I have written in my blog, contributed articles to various publications, been interviewed by journalists, moderated forums, hosted webinars, advised clients, spoken on panels, authored a book and recorded videos, …
For the past 16 years, I have written in my blog, contributed articles to various publications, been interviewed by journalists, moderated forums, hosted webinars, advised clients, spoken on panels, authored a book and recorded videos, all linked in some way to the topic of MBA Admissions. Through this work, I have encountered thousands of incredible individuals and felt blessed to help them achieve their most ambitious educational and professional dreams. It’s been a true honor to accompany so many on this significant and very personal journey.
Lately, I have been feeling that I have so much more to say. For me, business school was only the beginning. Getting in was exciting, attending was life changing and after that…there was life: launching and selling a company, launching and growing a second company, getting married, raising three children, navigating new territories, dreaming, striving, failing, juggling and experimenting.
There are so many post b-school topics that are meaningful to me. There are lessons I want to share, questions I want to ask and conversations I want to have. I realize that if you are reading my blog, there is a very good chance that you are most interested in what it takes to get into the best business schools. If that’s the case, there is a wealth of information on this website, including my recent interview with Business Insider.
However, you may also be interested in The Bigger Picture: insights, challenges and lessons from the post-admit life. Tomorrow I launch a bi-weekly series where I will touch on the more personal experiences I have had while growing SBC and while growing up. I hope that you can learn from my experiences, and that I can learn from yours. Perhaps I will help you avoid repeating my mistakes or remind you to stay positive in the face of failure. Maybe my stories will cause you to reflect and in turn, inspire stories (or application essays) of your own. I’d love to hear from you and to learn what interests you.
Feel free to email me at bigpicture@StacyBlackman.com with questions or suggestions for this new series.
Cheers to the bigger picture and living the bigger life!