The Small Business Owners Guide to What to Do When

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Working longer hours creates more work than it accomplishes.

There! I've said it and there's no take backs.

It reminds me of a lecture I attended sometime in the early 80's (likely before you were born). Judge Ziglar, Zig Ziglar's brother, was speaking at an event in Fargo, ND. (Yes, people who hail from Fargo do sound like the movie.)

As an offspring of Industrial Age parents, imagine my shock and dismay when Judge unequivocally shared the following:

"Work 50 hours a week and you'll be in the top 5% of your industry. Work 60 hours a week and you'll be in the top 1% of your industry, and if you work 70 hours a week, you're a F-O-O-L."

What?*!# was my initial reaction given the 100-hour work weeks I was investing in my business. I had learned the lesson of hard-work to get ahead from my depression-born parents. This statement turned everything upside down!

Since then, technology makes it easier to do more in less time — or does it? From my vantage point, small business owners continue to work beyond the capacity that is wise or sensible — despite technology's claim to make life easier.

Why Identifying Priorities Is A Priority

Is everything a priority in your world? If so, you're not alone. It's difficult to juggle the myriad of projects, tasks, goals, plans, and client demands to find one item that merits attention. Yet, our reluctance to invest time in sorting to uncover the priority leaves our mental and physical energy strained. Without that energy, performance suffers.

It's the very reason we work 70+ hours weekly and are burning out at unprecedented rates. We claim we don't have time for prioritizing and planning. Hence, we run through our days in full-on firefighter gear, carry a heavy water hose, and put out fires.

Yet, every minute spent planning, yields an additional 10 minutes for implementation. (Seriously. You can't make this stuff up. It's science.)

Instructions For Identifying What To Do When

Objective: provide you with tools to better sort through the endless things to do each day to identify your priority, reduce your stress, and have you delight in self-satisfaction at the end of the day. (Ta! Dah!)

Focus: solve the dilemma of "what to do when."

Before you pull the trigger, there is a foundation on which the premise of prioritization is built. That is, deliver that which has the greatest value to the client first.

In order to respect this basis, we need to understand a few things, right?

  • Who is my client?
  • What do they value?

If you're the business owner, you or your goals may be considered the client. If you're an employee, the client may be the manager or CEO of the company.

If you deem that you and your goals are the client, what do you value most, small business owner? I don't know about you but from my perspective, the ability to execute on the plans and tactics needed to achieve my goals is what is most valuable to me.

This is not to say my clients, who are reading this, aren't important. They are! You are! However, as a business owner who works "on" and "in" her business, it's about balance. Without the critical business development pieces needed to advance and grow my business, I quickly loose relevance and viability. Without that, there is no business for clients.

Get my point? Good. Let's move on.

Now that you've identified your client, along with that which is most valuable, you're ready to become a prioritization ninja.

  1. Create a master list. This is a catchall — a data dump, if you will — of items to complete by the end of the week. In my world, this happens Monday morning. You don't need anything fancy other than the back of an envelope and a pen. For techno geeks, trello is an effective digital variation.
  2. Spell out your achievement. This is a crystal, clear picture of what you intend to achieve by the end of the week as it relates to your goals.
  3. Identify high value items. Based on what you determined to be the greatest value to your client, as defined by you, what activities from your master list have the greatest impact on your achievement? Place a "HV" next to them. (HV for high value.)
  4. Reorder your master list. Realizing that you likely won't get to everything on the list, placing the high value activities at the top of your list. BAM! Your priorities are revealed. You are now able to quickly identify the top 20% of your activities that create 80% of the impact on your goals. (Dang you, Pareto Principle!)
  5. Begin execution and delivery of high value activities.

Sound simple? It is....sorta. Once you develop the habit of objectively identifying high value activities, it becomes easier.

Final thoughts: Your high value activities will continue to shift based on the needs of your "client." Be willing and ready to swap out equally high-valued activities as needed. Plan with only enough detail to deliver the first increment of value. Then, rinse and repeat!

The Small Business Owners Guide to What to Do When first appeared on Synnovatia’s business coaching blog, Bite-size Chunks of Wisdom.