Right now, many business owners are flat tack trying to keep up with customer demand, challenges with supply caused by Covid and staff shortages.
So why don’t the best business owners and managers seem to be running around all day, with no time to breathe, let alone work on their business?
The best leaders have learned the art of self-mastery. They recognise that the clock never stops and cannot be mastered. The only thing we can master is what we do with the time we have, who we become in that time and hence the outcomes we achieve with it.
To move from “chaos” in your business, you must learn the skills of self-mastery. It will give you back control in your life and, if done properly, significantly lift you and your business’s productivity, leading to more time to do what you love. And more profit to pay for the lifestyle you want.
What are your time goals for your day? How many hours each day do you want to spend investing in your business? Lee Iacocca, the former chief executive of Chrysler Motors, said that if you as a business owner or executive can’t get home by 6pm to have dinner with your family and relax for the evening, you are doing something wrong. He was right!
Once you have set the goal of how many hours you want to work each day you can limit your time at work by doing one really quite simple thing: Focus on being proactive, rather than reactive, for most of the day. That includes building a team that works so you can focus on the highest-value tasks.
Here are some easy-to-follow actions to take.
Remove the time wasters in your day. The best solutions are typically the simple ones, so make a list of every task you do, in 15-minute intervals. That might include meeting clients, preparing presentations, having team meetings, reviewing the cashflow, checking the budgets and the like. Be specific so you have (after a week or so) a good handle on the things you actually spend time on. Now order that list into daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks so you have a clear set of the routine things you do, what repeats and how often.
Prioritise the list. Particularly in smaller businesses, or when starting out, the temptation is to do everything yourself to save money and until you are up and running. But it’s essential to prioritise based on your role, not on saving a wage. Be the “rain-maker”, to do the things that will grow the business the most.
Use ABCD to set out the absolute priorities – the As being things such as sales, marketing, meeting and serving the best customers – in other words, the highest-value tasks that make your business the most profit; Bs might be team meetings, leading, motivating, inspiring, etc.
Here is where things get interesting. The Cs and Ds are not things you should be doing. Others should be doing them, more cheaply and probably faster and better. They are the routine tasks such as office admin, getting supplies or whatever the routine things are in your business. If you know you can pay someone $25 an hour to do the C and D tasks and you can make a sales call in that hour worth $500, wouldn’t it make sense to hire an assistant as soon as possible?
But you can’t delegate before you systemise. To help your team really grow and improve, you need to also train them. You don’t have to have complex systems, but a clear set of “how to” manuals setting out the processes of your business. Delegating before systemising will lead to pain down the road, so invest the time and effort setting up properly up front.
Once you’ve systemised the routine tasks and hired the best people you can find, your journey to improved productivity isn’t quite over yet. Ongoing training might be needed, so don’t cut corners. When asked to imagine the impact of training someone who then left the business, shrewd business owners reply: “Yes, but imagine not training them and they stay!”
With the groundwork in place, it’s time to build structure into your day and week using a “default diary”. It consists of the tasks you should be doing in the hours you’ve set aside for work (8am-5pm, or whatever goal you set for yourself). You have the ABCD list, so put a timeframe against each task (never an hour, because that just says you haven’t actually thought through what it will really take). Put the A-list items up front. Of course, not every hour in your day should be planned, but if you work an 8-hour day, a good rule of thumb is to have seven hours for planned, proactive work and one for reactive stuff. If you’ve trained your team, they will be able to make decisions so you don’t need to have a permanently “open door”.
Finally, there’s the “daily tasks list”. Every business we’ve put this into has seen a 20-30 percent productivity improvement. In essence, do today’s work today and plan tomorrow before you leave for the evening. There is a clear relationship between writing and brain stimulation, so actually write the list on a piece of paper, don’t type it up. That way, your brain gets to process the task and you’ve given yourself overnight to subconsciously find the best ways to do the tasks.
The “Friday List” follows the same thinking as for the daily tasks, but now for the following week so that on Monday you know what the week holds. You can now leave work with a clear head and dedicate the entire weekend to your family, friends and rest, which is surely the goal of building a business that works without you in the first place.