Aahh, a new year, new challenges, new possibilities. So much juicy stuff to get stuck into....But how do you decide what to focus on, and stop yourself becoming busy rather than productive?
Well, it seems I've had the answer all along! Last month I met with an ex-colleague who's decided to take the plunge into self-employment. He wanted to meet me for advice about what to do and what NOT to do. I was flattered. "Why me?" I asked.
"Well," came the response "You've been doing it for 5 years, so you must be doing something right".
This throw-away comment took me aback, but of course, it is true. So many small business and independent consultants don't last that long, so what AM I doing right? I don't have fancy business plans, I don't have a mission statement, I don't even have formal budgets, but what it seems I DO have is the ability to distinguish between what's urgent and what's important, and use my time appropriately in relation to that.
Most people will be familar with the urgency/importance matrix. we get into trouble when we spend all of our time doing urgent things and neglecting the important things. We end up running to stand still or 'firefighting'. When I cover this model in training sessions, many people are genuinely under the impression that EVERYTHING is both urgent and important, and for that reason, they end up trapped. For those of us who run our own businesses, this can quickly lead to personal burn-out and damage the business.
- Urgent and Important things are completing client assignments: They bring in money and have clear deadlines attached. Urgent and important things should be done as soon as possible and you should take time to do them well.
- Urgent but not important things include sifting the email, responding to requests for sample training material, answering queries. These things don't directly bring in money, but they must be done in a timely fashion. These tasks should be done quickly, or delegated if possible. They don't directly bring in money, but they affect my repuation.
- Important but not urgent things are things like marketing, networking and personal development. These mustn't be neglected and they need to be done properly. I plan in 'little but often' pockets of this activity as with these types of tasks, you need to keep chipping away as results will only come from sustained effort. These tasks have the potential to bring in business.
- Not Urgent or Important things tend to be distractions or things that you like doing. For me Twitter falls into this category (I'm Powerhour60), as does 'catching' up with other trainers. It's OK to do these things, but you must fit them in around everything else.
So, to get power from your hour this week/month, think about everything that you do, and decide (honestly) which box it fits in, and allocate your time accordingly.