Running in all directions yet getting nowhere? Too many project needing your attention? If it feels like you’re doing a million things and yet not making much progress, you’re most likely floundering in business. Yes, there’s so much to do, but trying to do it all isn’t working. It’s exhausting and ineffective.
I recently met someone who is in the midst of building his business. Within the space of one week I’ve seen him trying to learn about SEO, find a new CRM system, redesign his home page and landing pages, hiring a virtual assistant, engaging a marketing company, looking for software to record interviews, and changing his business model/pricing strategy. He says he’s focused on getting a better understanding of his customers. He also says he feels stressed out, overwhelmed, and he’s clearly frustrated with his lack of progress.
Watching him from the outside it seems so obvious that he lacks focus. But I’ve been there too and I know how it feels to not know which thing to pursue. To be aware of so many problems and issues with your business and want to solve them all. To have ideas about how your business should be, and then see the reality which falls short in many areas.
It’s not easy, but here’s a process that has helped me in the past…
Focus on shipping something
Here’s a thought… It doesn’t matter much what you actually spend time doing, it’s what you deliver that matters.
Seth Godin coined the concept of ‘shipping’ which means ‘get your work out into the world’ – not that this is easy to do as he explains here. But the idea is that nothing matters and you have no idea if anything is good, until it’s shipped.
What changed for your customer?
Think about this for a moment. If you spend a day researching different CRM systems, then another day interviewing a new staff member, then another learning SEO methods, and another modeling pricing options…. what impact have you made on your business? Absolutely nothing. Nothing has been implemented. And most importantly, nothing has changed for your customers.
On the other hand, what if you spent a day researching different CRM systems, made a decision, signed up, imported your data, trained you team on how to use it, used the system to identify some customer opportunities…. and your team actually used that CRM system to have new conversations. The results might be some extra sales or happier customers.
The fallacy of working on lots of things
The problem with time is that it’s not infinite. As much as you might want to, you simply cannot do everything at once. Even working longer hours won’t save you.
Take this analogy… If you have 100 units of time per week to spend on your business, you could either;
- Spend 20 units making progress on 5 different projects, or
- Spend 100 units on one project
Which approach gets the best result? If each project takes 100 units of time to complete, taking the first approach would mean that after 5 weeks, you’ll simultaneously get all 5 projects finished. Great.
But if you focus on one project at a time, after 1 week, you’ll finish the first project. Then you’ll finish the 2nd project at the end of the 2nd week. By the end of 5 weeks, you’ll have all 5 projects completed. But the difference with this approach is, the first project has was shipped 4 weeks ago, the 2nd was shipped 3 weeks ago, and so on. Taking this approach, you’ve made a much bigger difference much earlier. It’s a far better way to manage your business.
Of course, this we’re taking an overly simplistic approach here. You can probably never give 100% of your time to one project and real work is a lot messier than this. But also, the timeframes can be a lot longer too. What if each project takes a month or longer? Or imagine if we’re spreading our time over even more projects. The earlier we can ship our projects, the better.
Being strategic is focusing on the 20%
People often talk about ‘being strategic’ in business, but what does it actually mean? In my view it means figuring out which few things will deliver the biggest results. Pareto’s principle says that 80% of our results will come from 20% of our efforts (and in many cases it’s even more skewed).
The challenge is to figure out what those few things are, and then have the discipline to stick with them until they’re done. If you don’t know which is the strategic 20%, either just choose or design an initial project to find out.
Being busy is a form of laziness
Yes, you read that right. Being busy usually means you have not made the effort to decide what activities are the most important. It’s also a way that we feel like we’re contributing and attempt to validate ourselves to others (in our minds anyway!). There are plenty of other articles advising us not to tell people we’re busy, but this busyness can actually be causing us to be far less effective.
Most of us know this but we can’t let things go.
It’s not easy to deliberately neglect areas of your business that you know need work (but you’ve decided are not the most important thing). Yet, that is exactly what needs to happen.
How about tackling just one problem at a time? Imagine if you genuinely solved one problem a week… over the course of a year, the cumulative impact of this would be phenomenal.
Do you struggle with knowing what to focus on? Do you find it difficult to leave certain parts of your business so that you can focus on others? We’d love to hear your approach!