How do others approach setting the right priorities?
I have a lot on my to do list and I tend to focus on the day to day tasks I have. I am finding it hard to find time to focus on some of my strategic goals because the rest of my to do items take up all of my time. I am thinking I need to do a better job at setting priorities. How do others tackle their strategic goals while getting all of their pressing daily tasks done?
I think many of us have the same problem. I often start a day with the best of intentions but find the daily distractions can keep me from accomplishing the things I need to do. Here is the best ways I have found to minimize the problem.
Have a master to do list and a separate to do list for each day. Write out that daily to do list in hand at the start of each day while your mind is fresh. As you complete the items cross them off the list. Seeing the list shrink helps motivate me to complete more items.
Block out a separate day for your strategic goals. Preferably a day when you do not put anything else on your to do list. Everything else can wait but break those strategic goals into segments so you can cross off each item in the segment as you complete it. For me it works best to come into the office on a weekend where the phone doesn't ring, no one is around to disrupt my work and I can just concentrate on one thing.
Find some quiet time. The idea is that you can just think and formulate solutions to your goals. For me I have some long drives. Next week I will be driving 2200 miles from Pittsburgh to Phoenix and back 5 days later. Past history will tell me that I will have some really terrific ideas about improving my business because I will have a lot of time to just think. Your quiet time can be early in the day or late or weekends but having some time with few distractions to let your mind run free can be a great thing.
Hi Kate. Best of luck getting your jewelry business moving. Time management is the hardest thing to master, both as a moonlighter and as a start-up founder, so don't expect the need for time management to go away entirely. On another post I saw one of the posters say "...you know its a juggling act"...and it most certainly is. When I first started my biz, the administrative tasks always consumed my time so I couldn't think. Unless you have the funds to pay an assistant, its natural that these "must-dos" come before the "want-to-do's". But I did exactly what you said. I prioritized my tasks and made sure I at least dedicated some time to the strategy and "CEO" work instead of getting bogged down 100% of the time in my admin work. Eventually, as the "CEO" I started to see how the administrative work could be organized and eventually reduced. As we grew, I put systems and procedures in place so the admin tasks were less cumbersome. I believe you'll be able to do the same. Keep me posted on your progress...would love to follow your story as you go. Rich V.
There are many reasons and suggestions but before you can use some of them you need to have a clear mind. It is not about how fast you finish your works or how much you have done, it is more on "is it the right time to do".
You may say you have too many things need to do within a short time and all these things are suppose to complete "in the right time" within that short period. Than turn inwardly to check on how you perceive life and what is your intention. You will surprise to note that many things are actually need not to rush and what you want to do are not that much after all (ego is normally reason for trying to take too many thing in one go).
If even after you review your perception you still facing too many things to do. You need to re look at the method(s) you adopted to do those things, normally by improving your method(s), your complains will be gone.
Still facing the problem ...look for way to improve your focus ...e.g. account your works to check how many idle times and unnecessary works for the day; pomodoro technique rewind your focus; GTD hold key functions capture , clarify, organize, reflect, engage; Kanban - good method to help you prioritize and have low WIP (work-in-process)
Hi Kate the good news is you are not alone. The other good news is that the issue is fixable too. Step one, develop your over-arching plan (mission, vision) from which you derive your strategic (how I get the over-arching plan done) plans. Step two, allocate fixed time for the day to day tasks, You'll likely find that many can be nested into less time if not simply one day of the week or even less frequently. Don't forget to view these day to day tasks in context, that is they are part of the execution of the strategic plans. In this way the day to day is less inclined to take on a life of it's own.
As others have said, you are not the "lone ranger" with this problem. It is one of the biggest for business owners (and many other people as well). I will reiterate what some others have said and provide some additional perspective.
If you are going to own your own business, you have some personal financial and lifestyle objectives. Nail those down -- go out 3 - 5 years and put a stake in the sand on just those issues. Then line those PERSONAL goals up with what your BUSINESS needs to look like in that time frame for you to realize those goals. You then define the top capabilities you need to have and to have accomplished to realize those goals.
You then go through a process of bringing the objectives and strategies back to 12 months and then 90 days so that you have a road map of WHAT YOU NEED TO BE DOING TODAY to start down that path. It forces you to determine benchmarks so you know how you are progressing. Get some assistance to quickly pull you through this process.
As others have said, schedule time with yourself (ON YOUR CALENDAR) for even just 30 minutes per week to make sure you determine if you are following the path you have set, as described above. Having a mentor or coach or partner holding you accountable for doing those things really provides the incentive to pull away from the URGENT things that are filling up your time, so you can also work on the IMPORTANT things (to pull from Stephen Covey).
I hope this helps.
Kate, you have a wealth of terrific tips here. I'll add three more:
1. At any moment, you can decide what you should or shouldn't be doing with your time. Just ask yourself, "What is the most valuable use of my time right now? Your priority at that moment could well be to be fully present with a loved one. Whatever the answer is, start or continue doing it. If you're focused on driving revenues, then the question becomes, "Is what I'm doing right now contributing to making a sale?" If the answer is yes, keep doing what you're doing. If the answer is no, stop immediately and start on something that brings business and revenue.
2. Do nothing in your day that isn't written either in your schedule or on your action items master list. This is a great habit to adopt in that, when you're disciplined enough to do only those things already written into your schedule or action items, the act of writing it first may help you understand that it's not all that important. It also helps prevent you from majoring in minors that contribute little or nothing to your key result areas.
3. Know and plan around your internal and external prime time. Your internal prime time is when you tend to be more focused and productive. I know that I'm better in the morning on key tasks and actions, so when I have the choice, I schedule those early. If you happen to be more of an afternoon/evening person, save your key task for then. External prime time is when your customers and prospects are available. Don't be doing administrative tasks when you can be finding new prospects and turning them into customers. Key here is to find when internal and external prime times overlap and schedule your highest value activities in those time slots.
Keep the faith,
The best way is to set some time to plan. Look at the benefits of planning. It can be as easy as making a list and looking at each day. Revise YOUR priorities. That list is a day to day task.
It sets your priorities since you are doing it. One other thing: Post it on the bathroom mirror or bedroom mirror. Maybe in your car. You see it every day as you are changing clothes or brushing your teeth. Or getting in your car. Sets you in the right direction to achieve. Good luck. All the best.
Either you are working on the most important thing you need to do to make profit via you business - first and foremost - every day or your not.
You may have an alignment issue. If the activities of making money are somehow "out of wack" with your strategic goals - something else is wrong. How is it that the execution of your plans based on goals within your strategy aren't intrinsically relevant to the purpose and well-being of your business?
First, you probably have a number of tasks you do every day -- set aside an hour to do those tasks and stick to it. Then set aside an hour to work exclusively on your strategic tasks. Go into your calendar app and create that one (or even two) every day. Set it as a high priority block of time -- and do it. If you're not willing to schedule your time for strategic efforts and keep that schedule, then there isn't any advice and there aren't any tools that are going to help. You can always convince yourself that the alligator that has you by the ankle is more important than draining the swamp. Sometimes, you just have to ignore the alligator.
One recommendation is to clearly identify your business goals and what specific tasks you need to accomplish to meet those business goals. Then actually block time on your calendar (date and times) when you are going to work on your strategic tasks. Once you have actually blocked/reserved the time on your calendar - keep those appointments. Allow your day to day tasks fill the space around those blocks. Act as if those appointments are critical to your business' success (because they are).
I have been struggling with this problem, too! It's the "so busy working in my business that I don't have time to work on my business" challenge. I try to set aside one morning a week to work on strategic direction, marketing and making those difficult phone calls. It probably needs more time or someone to delegate easier tasks to — I'm working on that! My assistant this summer was very helpful in identifying businesses with my target description.
Time management is a daily task that because we live in age of too many distractions becomes more difficult. I use the philosophy “Begin with the end in mind.” To start it is healthy to get everything you need to get done on paper or a time management tool. I have learned not to keep everything I need to do inside my head because it only creates more stress. I recommend the author David Allen “Getting Things Done”
You need to break down your "To-Do" list by ABC categorization. A's are the items that MUST be done today, B"s are those that you do if you can get to them or can delegate, and C's are items that, if necessary, can be done later. You will find that B's will move up as days go by, and C's may disappear over time.
The best way to prioritize your day is to spend your time only on money-making activities. Everything else should be able to be delegated, or postponed.
But, by prioritizing the activities that directly lead to sales/clients, you can ensure you have the funds to continue growing your business.
Ask yourself if what you're going to work on can lead to sales, or if it's just busy work.
If you have not already done so, it is critical to identify your priorities and objectives. How do these align with what you want to accomplish? Once you have established these, then focus on the "big" things and make sure you schedule time to get them done. If you don't focus on the the big, important priorities first, they will never get done.
Best of luck.
People tend to go to the tasks that are the easiest to do, like getting rid of the easiest e-mails. easy return calls...In trying to set some time to work on the harder more strategic decisions take time for yourself either exercising, jogging, time where your distractions are limited and work on the big more difficult issues...I would suggest an even split of 50-50
Firstly you have the issue of time constraints: you need a diary.
Not some soppy piece of software: a hard copy A4 Diary Look at at in the evening before you go home, and in the morning when you first sit down - before you go and get your coffee!
Just because a project does not have to be completed until six months down the line, means that you have to diarise that in stages to make sure that it is indeed completed to diary. Look at due dates and time constraints, particularly if this means engaging third party contractors, as your diary is going to have to meet with their time restrictions too.
In your diary highlight with a yellow highlighter those which are projects and make sure that they are up to date; that way they will not get left behind and you can deal with minore issues the following day.
In my case this is particularly true when dealing with litigation and complex disputes where hearing dates and filing dates have to be complied with. The other items can take second place. Howewver it is true in my game that you need to keep an eye on the smaller (apparently) less important matters as they can soon become major ones ! Many a write off is small to medium value purely because it has been by- passed by what were deemed be more serious matters. Ironically these smaller issues in turn become big as they get old, people move on and in the end the debt becomes a write off.
I often find when I am in my consultancy role that the aged debt forms a U shape with the easy stuff being dealt with meaning you have a low 31 -90 days over due; but then find you have a massive 90+ coloumn, some of which are long term cases, for example projects or matters in litigation; however it needs examing because some of the cases may be low or medium value and could easily cleared up with a small credit note to keep the client happy and the debt (assuming the debtor pays) the matter fall out of the profile.
Keeping graphs, tables and in particular a diary is very important in priortising work. Try it out in various forms; and spreadsheets are good for showing financial profiles as well as the progression of a project.
I hope this gives you some ideas.
Chris R London
Two points I try to live by:
1 - do the most important thing first - this is the thing that will impact you the most if you get it done.
2 - ruthless priorities - don't just say busy, work on what matters. If there is no value in the task, drop it to the bottom of the list. Be ruthless about where you spend your time.
Ummmm, what are you talking about regarding your day to day? I sit down on Sunday or Monday morning and map out for the week - each day what I have to get done - that is the #1 - everything else - it happens after I have finished with the items on the list that have to - like this:
* I list the client name and write - work on website (this is an example) if it is written down - I know that it is a priority
* I also use Sticky notes - on my mac and I keep track of what has to be done - clients come first - I come last - so my next few entries will be "quickbooks doug" "quickbooks visione investments - "quickbooks - visione enterprises" etc.
* I do add my email - to review something later
All the rest of the tasks are lower on the totem pole - I also work from home the majority of the time - so I have a schedule - when I get up in the morning I make the beds, throw a load of laundry in, feed the dog and the cats and pick up - and I walk each morning -
I have a routine and it works for me - all I can say is that not all of your daily tasks have to get done that day -
Stay lean. 80% of things in your list are not really critical.
Focus on Value. What will really bring cash to your project?
Once you have a 3 item list focused on value-critical items, set harsh time constraints, this is when we do the most.
Only reevaluate the list on a weekly basis, otherwise you waste time overthinking.