I meet every fortnight with a group of business owners. The topic we talked about this week? It was all about what’s IMPORTANT and how this gets hijacked by what’s Urgent.
Knowing the Difference
The conversation started around the common problems many business owners face, that maybe you yourself are familiar with. ‘I’m faced with a constant demand to manage multiple tasks’, and, ‘day to day operational issues are in my way of working on the business, and not in the business.’
Peter said he never had enough time to develop the consulting side of his business. – Although it was something he had been working on for 2 years, he found it difficult to get customers on board.
Chris said he had trouble splitting his time between the four divisions he wanted to grow.
And Sandy commented that her goal was to push into a new market segment but a retiring employee meant that her focus was on existing customers.
Where does my time go?!
Everything we talked about was urgent. Urgent everyday items that require the attention of business owners. These were items that require decisions to be made to move the business forward, and to bring own the cash to keep operating. If decisions weren’t made, then by implication, the business would stop operating! But hang on, is this really true?
So, we dove a little deeper using my practical experience as a Business coach.
“Let’s get to the bottom of this”
Each of the owner’s frustrations were about a lack of time to develop the future of the business. And then, how could they structure their habits to ensure time was allocated to the future.
But these issues were also about having clarity of the future goal. The owners know it is important, but that’s it.
There is no statement of the impact of the goal, no assessment of what needs to be done and by when and by whom. Further, there is no assessment of risk and difficulty, nor any assessment of the size of the goal.
Without clarity of the goal, then what is perceived as important will probably continue to be perceived as being important.
So as business owner, what does this mean for my business?
If your goal is truly an important one, then what do I need to do?
- What the impact of my goal is if it is achieved
- The impact of my goal on profit and cash-flow if successfully delivered
- Impact on my time at work if successfully implemented
The second step I need to master? To properly and truly understand the impact of NOT doing anything.
The urgent issues remain urgent, perhaps for 1 hour, or half a day, or even a whole day. These are the things that distract you – your phone rings, someone walks into your office and disrupts your thoughts/plan, or maybe a staff member says “we need your input for an urgent matter”. What’s urgent to a staff member probably is urgent to them but perhaps, not to the business.
Imagine if you could turn off your phone or your computer screen for 1 hour, what could you get done? It shouldn’t be that hard – you go to a meeting for 1 hour and there’s no computer screen in that meeting room! So, it’s all about mindset and good habits.
3. But where do I begin?
Something that railroads IMPORTANT matters is simply, not starting. Or even just not knowing where to start.
I reckon we know this as procrastination. Any excuse will do.
“I haven’t got time to finish, so I won’t start!”
“I’ll just get a coffee first before I look at it!”
“I’ll fire off these 3 quick emails to clear my to do list before I get going.”
Sometime the most IMPORTANT things are the hardest – but as they say, eat that frog first! If you eat the hardest frog first, then it’s generally the most important one. And you might just find that all those urgent action items are most likely the urgent items that belong to someone else! Someone else’s urgency is not necessarily your business’ urgency.
So, let’s be clear; IMPORTANT is a priority for you, and your business as business owner. Not starting, and even delaying, are primary procrastinator traits whereby you use “urgency” to hijack the tasks at hand.
If you want to move IMPORTANT up to the level it deserves, be very clear and precise about the impact of the OUTCOME from actioning and completing the IMPORTANT task. You may not know it, but the most important tasks could very well be the most urgent task to move your business forward into the future.