According to a recent survey that Inc.com conducted of 500 business owners, over 70% reported feeling “overwhelmed” running their companies. They felt pulled in too many directions, like they were wearing too many hats, with no time to take a breath and regroup.
It would be fair to say that this happens regularly to many people. Whether they say anything and vocalise it, is a different matter. One of the reasons I’m writing this is to show people that it’s OK, not be OK. It’s OK not to be a superhero. No-one gave you that job title, so don’t try to do it.
So here I collected these 7 tactics that several entrepreneurs have used on their way to success. They range from Richard Branson to Janine Allis to Lord Sugar’s early days. And they haven’t done too bad have they?
Pick one “bottom line” for the day, and get it done by 10:30am.
A bottom line is the one thing that if you did it today would have the biggest positive impact on helping your company reach its most important goals. The best daily bottom lines take no more than 30-60 minutes (if you have an idea that would take longer, chunk it down into a smaller bite for that day.)
Start your day by knocking out your bottom line–before you open your email.
We all intuitively know that email is disruptive, distracting, and addictive. A bit like Facebook, twitter and Instagram. Yet too many business owners accept this and still start their day by visiting their inbox. Or go looking for Pokemon. Not you, not anymore. Give yourself the gift of the first 30-60 minutes of your day to knock out your bottom line for the day. The power and momentum you’ll carry into the rest of your day will help you regain a sense of control of your day.
Set aside one day per week as your “Focus Day”.
A Focus Day is the one day per week that you set aside for you to invest on your highest value projects or activities. To create value we need blocks of time, yet as business owners our time is increasingly fractured into smaller and smaller units. Pick one day each week that you’ll carve out a 3-5 hour block to work on your highest value stuff. This may require you to turn off your email, or close your door (or to even leave your office altogether and work from a remote, distraction free location.)
Give yourself a break.
If you’re taking one focus day per week (3-5 hours) and starting your non-Focus Days (i.e. your “Push Days” since they are about pushing things one step further down the field) by knocking out your daily bottom line (1/2-1 hour four days a week), then you’re getting 5-10 upgraded hours per week of real, valuable work done each week.So now cut yourself some slack. Are working those two hours longer into the evening really going to help you get more value done, or are they just a compulsion to get more lower-value tasks off your plate? Likely the later so give yourself a break and go home. Or take a run. Or play hooky for a few hours in the afternoon and stroll through the park. The break will help you recharge and regain your sense of perspective.
Create a “Stop Doing” list, and add to it regularly.
Oddly I’m a man who likes a good to-do list. Maybe I’ve been getting wrong and business owners should make the hard choices of what to let go of and what to delay. Once a week scan through your to-do list and decide if some of the items on it would be better deleted, or to delay by adding them to your “revisit later” list with a date you’ll review whether or not to pick the item backup, or to extend the delay period.
Narrow your focus to those fewer, better things that will truly make a difference.
Too many business people think the answer is more, but that just isn’t so. The more I did, the less I got done. The more I tried to get done, the worse the quality. The answer is about better. When you try to get too many things done you risk letting the good ideas drown out the great ones. Remember, you have a limited amount of attentional units (brain cells for those who don’t like jargon), so invest them wisely. Right now, focus on executing extremely well on one or two things, not skimming the surface of 12.
Each quarter, reduce your “fewer, better” focus to a one page plan of action for your company.
One page? Yes! You need to be able to see it all in one whole. Pick the top 2-3 focus areas for your company this quarter. For each list the 3-4 concrete “criteria of success” bullet items that if you accomplished in that focus area by the end of the quarter you’d know you were successful. Then lay out the 5-7 key action steps or milestones to accomplish that criteria of success. Make sure to list who owns each step and by when. Congratulations, you now have your one page quarterly action plan.