Is Life (and business) complicated or do we make it so?
The quote in the title is often attributed to Albert Einstein talking about a mathematical way of describing the universe but would it not be a useful guideline on how to organise oursleves?
In our business the more we do the more there seems to need doing. Always something new, the fear of missing out, the next shiny object, the "killer" business tactic that everyone is using, endless choice, options and overwhelm. So how can we make our business life simpler?
1. Establish your Values. In “The Chimp Paradox” Prof Steve Peters talks of “tablets of stone” the principles upon which your mind operates. With these principles or values established, decisions become easier since each choice should support your values. Similarly, what are the values of your business? Understanding these allow you to make decisions and decide on future plans that support these values. You can ignore anything that undermines them.
2. Get your Strategy Straight. In a similar vein, time spent on developing your strategy means that you can quickly make the right decisions on tactics. You can also be clear on how any task fits with the strategy and so decide on it's importance and relevance to the development of your business and, indeed, whether you need to do it at all. All your tasks should support both your business values and strategy.
3. Be Honest. Being honest simplifies life hugely. No need to create a facade or live a character that is just not you. No need to remember what your are supposed to say but again only consider the values and strategy of the business. It also characterises you as a trustworthy and someone who people are happy to do business with.
4. Be ready to say no. This is linked to the first few points, if you keep the values and strategy for your business in mind then you need ti be ready to say no to something that distracts or undermines them. It's not just being ready to say no but learning how to say it. Based on what we have already discussed you should be honest and explain it’s not what you feel that at this time will support your strategy and/or values.
5. Be Proactive: In his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Robert states that being proactive is vital to success. Consider all the tasks you have today then put them on to a grid with 4 boxes labeled:
Important and Urgent.
Not important and Urgent,
Not Important and Not urgent,
Important and Not urgent.
Your focus should be on the last box. Think of the important tasks that can move your business forward, completing these in a timely fashion is being proactive. The first box is the reactive box and can often be the tasks that take up most of our time as important tasks become urgent. By focusing on the important tasks earlier they don’t reach this box.
6. Use a planner to make time for all the important things in your life. Michael Hyatt, the blogger and productivity expert claimed that his electronic organiser was an extension of his brain. By using the planner he didn’t have to remember dates and tasks and could focus on planning and creative activities. It may seem awkward and cumbersome at first but soon you may see his point.
On a time management course I attended the leader illustrated the problem with a glass jar and pebbles of different sizes from large to sand like and said these are the things in out lives we want and need to complete and the jar represents the time available. Her question “How do we fit the most in?” After some trial and error it became clear that the best strategy was the largest pebbles first followed by those of decreasing size. The message? Start by making time for the big things such as your family, friends and your health and wellbeing and the rest will fit around those. Finding time to do more by cancelling your time in the gym or leisure time may work in the short term but will be of little use if you are burned out in a few years.
7. Don't just manage time. Despite the importance of scheduling from the previous point it is also important to consider managing your other personal resources, specificaly your attention and energy levels . Work out when during the day you are at your peak energy, peak attention to detail and peak creativity? Also, when would these be at their lowest point. It will be different for everyone but once you know then schedule your tasks based on what is required from you. Write blog posts and other content during your most creative period and file or do the shredding when your at your low point for creativity or attention. It can take a bit of trial and error but the pay off in productivity is worth it.
8. Delegate. There are more options now to delegate routine task than ever before. Virtual assistants can take on routine as well as more involved tasks. If not an accountant then certainly a book keeper can save hours of your time and probably keep your accounts in better order that you could do yourself. Start to develop systems to complete routine business tasks which then allows them to be delegated easily. Think of household tasks that you can outsource such as cleaning, laundry and gardening. Work out what your time is worth per hour in comparison to the costs of getting someone else to do these tasks then work out how many should be outsourced.
Not exhaustive but I didn't want this post to become overcomplicated! Consider why you started your own business? For many people flexibility is at the top of the list but often we can revert to habits and restrictions built up from being employed by others. Don't slavishly follow the 9-5 routine and you can find yourself able to achieve more.