If your 2020 goals included growing your business, staying more organized, and keeping on top of your own and your team’s to-do list, keep reading.
You might be going about this thing the wrong way.
While in the beginning of the year it can be tempting to cling to the shiny new planners, project management tools, and to-do list templates to keep you focused and on track, there’s a more far more simple and impactful tool you can use (and if you’re a CEO of a growing company, you should use).
While there is research that suggests that writing a to-do list can help to decrease anxiety and provide order to an otherwise chaotic barrage of disassembled thoughts, if you’re an entrepreneur looking to scale a company, throwing miscellaneous tasks down on a page is often the opposite of productive.
The biggest challenge entrepreneurs face is being able to vacillate between the competing priorities of day-to-day operations (think: client work, content creation, administrative duties, correspondence) and strategic forward planning (think: long term brand growth, sales strategy, etc).
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, who oftentimes have to switch back and forth between working in and on the business, putting all to-do items on a sprawling list seems to create the feeling of more work to do, less work done. This in turn can negatively impact motivation and follow-through.
How can you combat this productivity hang up?
You can be more productive by effectively allocating your focus to the tasks that will move the needle forward the most in your business. Those that directly impact your bottom line, team productivity, and most important strategic priorities.
Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of “Emotional Intelligence and Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence,“ wrote that “directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership.”
If you’re a business owner struggling to focus your attention and successfully complete the tasks that matter most, try the below tips in lieu of using your traditional to-do list.
1. Make a strategic priority list
Instead of listing out everything you want to happen in the business (the upgraded website, the optimized SEO, the six launches a year, the big press, the growing social) and trying to attack it all at once, identity which of all your goals is the highest strategic priority for the year, and then for each quarter.
You may start by writing down all the goals and objectives you think are priorities for this year. Get it all onto the page. Once all of your top goals for this year are on the page, review them over and circle the initiatives that will have the most impact on your overall growth. Consider most of all your bottom line and team efficiency.
Once you’ve identified your top strategic priorities for the year, make a timeline of no more than three top priorities per quarter. This will serve as your anchor to return to throughout the year, and to refocus your team and yourself as the CEO to ensure you’re on track and not just “working,” but working effectively and efficiently towards the most important goals.
2. Delegate ownership of projects to the correct team members
One of the biggest bottlenecks in business is trying to do it all yourself. Make sure, if you have a team, that you’re delegating not only micro tasks, but also the entire ownership of projects to the appropriate team members. Define what “done” looks like to minimize communication issues and dissatisfaction with the end result.
Most importantly, let your team in on the why behind these projects, and how the successful completion of them contributes to the company’s greater vision/goal. By empowering your team to take ownership of projects and tasks, you expand your company’s capacity to generate results. By delegating tasks appropriately, you free up your focus, time, and energy to effectively complete the larger tasks before you.
3. Reverse engineer your way to the results you want
Start from the end (the result), then work your way back to the beginning. For example, if you want the result of hitting $100,000 in sales next month, what do you need to prepare this month in order to get there? By starting from the result and working backward, you are much more likely to achieve the outcome you want.
4. Focus on MMAs (money making activities)
If you’re a business owner with a team, one of the most important data points you can keep track of are the actions that move the needle forward in your business. Similar to a food journal, keep a journal of the activities you do daily in your business and track those that have a direct impact on your best results. Is live video one of your best lead generators and sales tools? Track it. Does recording a solo podcast episode with a strong call to action usually yield in high traffic and sales? Document it. By tracking what your MMAs are, you’ll be able to refine your execution and make sure that the majority of your time as CEO is spent playing in your zone of genius.
By Cait Scudder