Then suddenly you run out out of money to pay creditors, or sales bottom out for a couple of months, or maybe your largest customer goes to the opposition, or you are facing losses and losing the business completely. Now the pressure is on - it just got serious and if you don't do something now, the price you pay for procrastination is too high.
It's at this point that companies often call me for help, and with some quick thinking and action (but way too much stress), we can usually get the business back on track.
But why don't we do that thing we know should be done? Because these jobs mostly have no immediate payoff. It often seems easier (in the short term anyway) to put them off until another day. Hey another day, week, month, won't matter, Will It?
Things you need to get done in your business might be:
- A marketing plan you need for growing your business to give it a better FUTURE.
- Chasing overdue accounts so you can pay your bills before creditors or the bank say ENOUGH.
- Seeking out new business because your sales are DECLINING.
- Getting margins right so you can actually start make a decent PROFIT.
- Improving systems in your business so that you can start running the business instead of it RUNNING YOU.
- Taking back control of your business so you don't stay awake at night worrying when the next CRISIS will hit.
What is the thing you are putting off? The thing that probably won't give you an instant reward, it takes a bit of effort to get started, it doesn't seem that urgent, so you just put it off? You just get caught up in the other so-called important stuff, so it gets left? There is no immediate consequence, so you just let it slide?
In his ever-popular book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", Stephen Covey outlines a good way of allocating your time to enable you to get some of these tasks completed. He created a chart which gets you to separate your time into four quadrants:
These are your important appointments, regular commitments, problems needing immediate attention, putting out "fires", deadlines (all these have immediate consequences if not dealt with now).
2) Not Urgent, Important (Gold Time)
Important tasks/projects that will add incredible value to you and the business, but don't have an immediate effect or result. Examples could include seeking new business, following up old leads, improving systems within the company... This is called "GOLD TIME" - and this is where you should spend a good portion of your time.
3) Urgent, Not Important (Dangerous)
Things like unimportant meetings, customers who take up all your time and are never profitable, unnecessary reports, minor issues. All these things seem important at the time, but add no real value to you or the business. Without being aware, this can be where a large portion of our time goes, stealing away the gold time you have for your business.
4) Not Urgent, Not Important (Time Wasters)
Here are things like excessive relaxation, spending too long on phone calls, green bananas, too much time looking at emails/Facebook, wanderings, etc. These have little to no value and this is obvious.
How to begin? Start setting aside at least 30 minutes each day to work on your gold time activities. Pick one project at a time until it is completed, then move onto the next project.
Now here is the trick - record every day how much time you spent - and make yourself accountable. If you get your 30 minutes done, then give yourself a reward, maybe some chocolate or something small. If you didn't get it done give yourself some pain - stay late until you get it done. Make yourself get up earlier in the morning to make up the time if you have to.
Just 30 minutes a day, is 2.5 hours a week, 130 hours per year (over 3 weeks per year). Use this time consistently and you will be amazed how different your company will look in just a few months. You will get the pay off and it will be sweet.
Time spent invested into non urgent but important things in your business will give you a harvest and make your business better.
- A good marketing plan put into action will grow your business next year.
- Following old leads and finding new customers will give you more income.
- Tweaking margins will give you more profit.
- Chasing overdue accounts will pay off for you when the bills come in and you have the money in the bank to pay them.
- Improving systems will give you happier customers, happier staff and more time.
Think about your big goals for added motivation - what you do ultimately want to achieve? More profit, making the business worth more for when you want to sell, franchising your business, or maybe simply not working as many hours or spending more time with family. The reality is that with the right approach all of these are possible.
My clients tell me they know I will hold them accountable for their gold time, to do the things that will actually make a difference in their business, even if they don't see results that day or week. They often know what they want, or even what to do, but without that push they often won't do it. It's just easier not to. We have all been there.
So who is pushing you to make sure you are getting the best out of yourself and get the rewards you deserve? Is it your spouse, a fellow business owner, a mentor. With others on your team, you will always go further than on your own. Find someone to keep you accountable to achieve your best... I have. It works.