One of the biggest things that comes up for entrepreneurs is handling the sheer number of things that need to get done! Whether you alone are your business, or you have a team in place (which adds another level of responsibilities) – there never seems to enough time to get it all done.
Strategic planning, branding, developing products and services, production and distribution, sales and marketing, networking, purchasing and inventory, record keeping, financial statements, hiring decisions, staff training, legal issues, and expansion – it’s a wonder anyone chooses to go into business!
And, as an entrepreneur, you have already made that choice. You have a passion to share, and you want to choose your lifestyle. You have a deep faith in yourself that you can do it. And you are right. As long as you are clear on where you want to go, and take regular, meaningful action, you will leave your impact.
At the same time, I talk to so many people who say they want it, but they just aren’t ready YET. They want to start a business so badly, or grow in a new direction and hire more staff, or offer new deeper experiences for their clients and customers, and they don’t have it all figured out yet, so they are paralyzed. And that paralysis can be terminal. I’ve seen it happen many times. Years go by, and nothing changes.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Done is better than perfect.
To me, that is the first “rule” of business. Maybe the only rule.
It’s a fine line. I know. You want to put your best out there. And first impressions DO matter. Yet, if you are constantly tweaking and re-tweaking BEFORE you hit “Publish” or “Send” you will waste valuable time. And you won’t ever see the results of your work. You won’t move forward.
You need traction, you need to make mistakes, you need to learn from those mistakes and keep moving forward – no matter what.
You can always go back and edit your posts and emails and res-hoot videos. (Trust me!) But don’t let perfectionism hold you back. Just DO IT!
Lecture over – now – running your business is a bit like herding cats. Tasks can take on a life of their own and pull you in multiple directions, each howling for your attention. To wrangle the herd and keep it moving in formation, it boils down to time management and systems. There are hundreds of books and courses on the subject; ultimately, you have to find what works best for you.
Following is a simple system that may serve you well – it’s kind of like reverse goal planning! (And don’t let the “G-word” turn you off. Goals help you focus on where you want to go and how you are going to get there. I love, love SMART goals and have a post here (Give Your Business Wings) on exactly how to set SMART goals to drive your business in the RIGHT direction). In the meantime you can choose to tackle it this way (remember – it’s gotta work for YOU!)
Brain Dump to create a list of tasks or “to-do’s”
Even with great goals and lead measures in place – there are often many other “to-do’s” that don’t fit smoothly into the big picture.
Writing these niggling things down reduces stress and encourages deeper thinking. Creating “to-do” lists frees your mind from having to remember it all so your brain can engage in more productive activity. It can move from simply remembering details into deeper stages of thought like analysis, evaluation and creativity. This is the stuff successful businesses are made of.
As an added bonus – as you cross items off your list you can literally see the progress you are making. Revel in your accomplishments! You can also see which items are being carried over from list to list – these are obviously the things you are putting off. Is it because they aren’t priorities, or are you avoiding them? Think about it.
I recommend a good brain dump periodically to get these out of your brain and on paper. With a pen – not a keyboard. Leave gaps between items so you can add things later. Use corners and margins if necessary to get it all on one page.
Step 1: Set a timer for 20 minutes and list everything you can think of. Ready? Go!
Group Tasks (AKA Lead Measures!) Into Categories
Grouping your list items together helps your brain process information more efficiently and creatively. It has also been said that “the process of combining pieces of information to create something more meaningful is a crucial aspect both of learning and of consciousness and is one of the defining features of human experience.” (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings)
Step 2: After you have your list of “to-do’s”, group them into broader categories.
For example, the following 4 “to-do’s” could be grouped into a category called Website:
- Submit proposal for web designer to elance
- Research similar sites
- Find images
- Write text for Home Page
These “to-do’s” can become Branding:
- Survey potential customers
- Choose niche
- Develop tagline
- Submit proposal to Logo Tournament
Likewise, these become Marketing:
- Create page
- Start posting daily
- Research Facebook Advertising
And these go under Speaking:
- Watch TedX Talks
- Call Chambers of Commerce for opportunities
- Research meetup.com
- Outline signature speech
If you STILL have random tasks – put them under a category called “Parking Lot“!
Step 3. Get out your calendar and set deadlines
Choose which activity is most meaningful right now. Decide what you have to do first. Not what you want to do – but what MUST be completed to move forward. Then get out your calendar, and give it a deadline. Be realistic. Work backward. If your website has to be launched by August 25, then final edits should be complete by August 23. That means final web copy has to be complete by August 20. That means your 2nd draft should be complete by August 15, and so on. Put each deadline on your calendar. Allow extra time. Things always take longer than expected.
Create blocks of time
Step 4. Schedule 30 – 60 minutes with yourself to complete 1-2 of your most important tasks.
Choose 1-2 tasks each week to work on and carve out the time to get them done. Studies have shown there is a diminishing law of returns with goals and tasks. Work on 1-2 and you will get them done. If you try to tackle 3-4 – you may complete 1. If you try to do 5 or more – you many not complete any! Crazy – but who am I to question science?! Besides, I have to agree with the research based on personal experience. Slow and steady. Baby steps. This is how you build a business – it’s like eating an elephant – one bite at a time.
Looking at the big picture of all your tasks and to-do’s helps you prioritize and set deadlines. Scheduling blocks of time to work on one or two tasks each week allows you to methodically approach what could otherwise overwhelm! Also – using a timer can help you gauge how long something actually takes, and tells you when it is time to move to another task, helping you plan your time wisely.
The bottom line is that as an entrepreneur you do have a thousand tasks to keep track of. That is the reality. It is the work style you chose, (or it chose you!) It isn’t easy, but it is do-able if you have a system and make it work for you. And remember – DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT!
Breathe and enjoy the process. Remember- you can do it all – you just can’t do it all at the same time!