Monday, December 16, 2013

What's Your Misery Index?

Sometimes, in order to become more successful, you have to look beyond the obvious. We all try to do all of the right things. We look at what the successful people do and we try to emulate. However, it can become frustrating when we don't seem to be netting the same results from those efforts. This is where thinking smarter about the way we work, and perhaps even the timing of some of our actions, is required. The right actions done at the wrong time will never net you the same positive impact of the right action at the right time.

For example, consider Campbell's soup. Like any company, they wanted to sell more of their product. Effort was put into the look and taste of the soup, the packaging and labelling of the soup, studies were done to determine the right price point of their soup in the marketplace. All of these were the 'right' and necessary things to do. These are similar to what each of us does (or should do!) in order to market our products or even ourselves. Campbell's ran ads in order to create more sales for their products. However, sometimes the marketing they did was effective, sometimes less so - even if it was the same advertisement.

In looking at their marketing information a little closer, they determined that the purchase of their product was influenced heavily by the weather conditions. Cold, wet, windy days drove more sales. Much of their marketing budget was wasted during bright, sunny days. The challenge, of course, was how to reach their audience primarily during those days and moments when it would be the most effective, when someone was chilled and a bowl of soup was very appealing. In response to this, Campbell's took meteorological data, tracked weather patterns, and created an algorithm - they called the Misery Index - to predict when to best run their ads, for each station/geographical location. Brilliant. The more miserable the weather, the more desirable their product. In making this simple connection they were able to increase the effectiveness of the same marketing programs and dollars.

In thinking about this concept, it occurred to me that we each have our own personal Misery Index. Where we happen to be on our own index, at any given point in time, will drive the effectiveness of our actions, influencing our outcomes. Brilliant. The more miserable we are, the less effective our efforts will be. Imagine then if you began to track and understand your trends, scheduling your work and efforts around your 'peak' times.

Some of our trends will occur seasonally. Some people find that they are much more productive during late spring, early summer and through the fall, experiencing a drop in their productivity during the winter and late summer. Extreme cold and heat can have a definite influence over our energy and focus.

Some of our trends may be driven by the calendar. Some people find that they are more productive during moments in the calendar year that seem to 'speak' to them of renewal: the start of the New Year, springtime, September. Others may find that Holidays have a significant impact on their energy, experiencing a positive or negative swing around these times of the year.

Some of our trends may be driven by the planets and stars.  Some people are influenced heavily by elements like the waxing and waning of the moon, without even realizing that their energy is being governed by it.

Some of our trends may be driven by our circadian rhythms.  Some people are more energetic and focused in the morning, some are most productive late at night.  Some people are raring to 'go' on a Monday, while others are at their peak mid or late week.

Understanding your Misery Index helps you to plan your work and activities to your peak periods, avoiding taking on a daunting task during your low moments.  However, it also is important to consider where your audience may be on their Misery Index.  If you know your boss is at her lowest in the morning, or hates the snow, you might not want to try pitching your new idea to her first thing in the morning during a snow storm, even if you are an early bird that felt invigorated cross-country skiing to work!

Plan your working schedule around your Index, but your pitching around the likely Index of your audience. The concept of the Misery Index is there to highlight for us the impact of doing the right thing at the wrong time.  Consider investigating further if you find that even doing the right things seems to result in your spinning your wheels.  The right actions, taken at the right time, will net you the right results.

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