How To Work On Your Business, Not Just In Your Business
The harried mouse constantly running up the treadmill seeking the cheese, seems like the right metaphor for modern life. Chaplin’s "Modern Times" assembly line silent movie scene, where he can never keep up is funny but scarily familiar. Technology, supposedly freeing us up, has made 24/7 the new black.
We are busy, busy, busy running but we often feel we are getting nowhere. We are all fervently looking at the clock but are not looking at the more important compass. By the way, getting to the top of the wrong greasy pole isn’t much of a reward.
Do you have a daily "to do" list? What about a "to be" list. An ideas list? Or none of the above? Do you have control of your job or is your job controlling you?
Flat organizations, matrix reporting systems, constant tension between time/quality/cost and 50-100 daily emails are all making our decisions on how we spend the 1440 minutes available per day to us, even more critical.
We can’t do everything. Whew, that is a relief. Wait - don’t declare "mission accomplished" just yet. We can’t do everything but we CAN DO the most important thing every day. Ask yourself constantly, "Is what I am doing right now, the most effective use of my time?". Scary thought!
There is a big difference between working in our business and working on our business. Changes in markets, technology, regulations and currencies can redirect us away from our higher order "compass" related priorities.
For those employed by an organization, upper echelon company politics can change lives in a nanosecond. Loyal, diligent, productive, great colleagues still get pushed out. They worked long hours, sacrificed time with family and friends for nothing, because now they are gone! We all know people like this or we know we can become those people ourselves at any point. We can easily be that ‘running mouse" who gets disappeared!
For those of us self-employed, we can become too busy belting crocodiles with the oar to prepare sufficiently for the future.
In classic time management terms, we have all been hypnotized by Quadrant One – urgent and important. We just don’t have time to plan, to think, to prepare. Unless we carve out the time, we can never break free to Quadrant Two – not urgent but important.
Let’s start again with some zero based thinking. Analyze your day. You have controlled time - meetings, phone calls you must make, follow up emails, appointments with clients, motivating staff, etc. This is why you are getting paid but it is a poor form of job security.
Your uncontrolled time is where the compass needs to come into play. To really embrace higher effectiveness, keep reciting this mantra to yourself: "Is what I am doing right now the most effective use of my time?" If it isn’t STOP doing it and start delegating!!! This opportunity is your Quadrant Two potential time, don’t squander it. This is where we do problem solving, creating, thinking, innovating, etc.
Successful CEOs of large corporations spend less time in routine work and more in problem solving and developmental work. Are they the CEO because they always had that "compass not the clock" discipline or do they do this, simply because they became the CEO? What do you think?
Your daily "to do" list is for routine work objectives. Absolutely be certain to make an additional "to be" list to focus on priorities around problem solving or developmental "compass" oriented work. This is critical: you must block out the needed time.
Step 1 - make regular appointments in your own diary, with yourself, to work on your "to be" list items. We say, "Time is money", don’t we. Recall all that good financial planning advice you have read – "pay yourself first and don’t just invest what is left over at the end of the month". The same with your time –"pay yourself first" by investing in Quadrant Two activities – the compass not the clock. Do not let anyone interrupt you during this time. Let everyone know, failing potential building collapse due to an earthquake, you are not to be disturbed!
Step 2 - list up all of the problem solving or developmental items and then prioritise within these. Start working on the highest priority item and do not be distracted from it.
Step 3 - write down your answers to these four questions: (a) WHY is this priority item important for our results, (b) WHAT is my vision of how the process should work, (c) WHERE is there any rework or duplication involved, (d) WHICH part of the existing process accounts for most of the problems?
Step 4 - identify the internal and external customers or users of the process and what they expect and need from the process, to ensure their success. List up (a) who are the customers of this process, that should be involved in this solution and (b) what are their expectations of the process. Now analyze which of these expectations are not being met by the existing process?
Step 5 - having identified the customers of the initiative, brainstorm and write down the action steps needed to solve problems or develop this area. Make some decisions about which of these actions steps will have the higher priority.
Step 6 - never ever don’t forget to delegate steps to others! Determine who will be responsible, for doing what, to what, by how much and by when. This process will create clarity to ensure that 80% of your time is being focused like a laser beam on the 20% of activities which will generate 80% of your career success. Buy it and try it!