One of the most common small business mistakes–every business, actually–is confusing activity (e.g. ‘being busy’) with accomplishment (‘making progress’). Just because you show up every day and put in the hours doesn’t mean you’re getting anything done. In fact, thinking about the number of hours you work just confuses the issue. Whether you do two hours of work, or ten, if you’re doing the wrong thing, you’re not getting anywhere. Multiply this across your whole staff, and you see the problem. It’s not just about effort.
[Obviously this applies to anything in life, but we’re talking about business here.]
This is a common problem because, every day, you’re challenged by things that are either: 1) urgent or 2) important. Occasionally these are one in the same; category 3) urgent and important problems do come up, but not often. Of the first two, which gets done: the urgent or the important? Most of the time, the urgent wins… it’s ‘urgent’, right?! But urgently working on things without value is a waste of your time, and time is your most valuable asset, in business and in life.
Focusing on the important is key. Filling up the hours is not. People tend to do what they like to do, not necessarily what’s hard or important. Filling up your time with pleasant but worthless tasks feels good but gets you nowhere. Even if you work less and focus only on the activities most critical to your business, you’ve discovered one of the not so secret rules of business success.
EVERY DAY, ASK…
- What are you working on, and why are you doing it?
- If you stopped doing it, what would happen? Does it cost the business less to not do it?
- Is someone else better suited to handling it?
- Could you automate it? Outsource? Delegate?
If you’re doing something that isn’t adding value to your business, don’t do it! If you’re doing something less valuable than you could be, don’t do it! Focus on the important, not the urgent.