Owning a business has never been a 9 to 5 job, for most it is a 24/7 continuous occupation of your mind. There is a never ending supply of tasks, projects, meetings, and distractions that every entrepreneur has to deal with on a daily basis. The most common phrases I hear from those struggling to build their business are “there aren’t enough hours in the day” or “I need more time”. But, time is the single most finite resource in the universe. It continuously expires with steady precision, and cannot be manufactured, borrowed, or stolen. What we choose to do with the limited time we have ultimately determines our success or failure, in everything. Lack of focus, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have the same 24 hour days.
So, if time is a constant in everyone’s formula for success, then the variable we are left to deal with is Focus. This is a serious problem, as focus does not come naturally for most entrepreneurs. We like to be big picture thinkers, idea generators, creative innovators, constantly changing various aspects of our business, or dreaming up new businesses. And, at the same time we are control enthusiasts, perfectionists, filling our day with the details of every activity in our business. We get bored with business as usual, get easily distracted, and have constant demands for our attention. Finding the time for focused attention is challenging enough by itself. Even more important, is identifying the areas of your business to focus on, those areas that will take your business to the next level and are most impactful to your success. Said another way, your focus will determine your future.
So, with limited time, an attention deficit disorder, and a mountain of goals to achieve, how can an entrepreneur beat the odds of failure? In my experience, I have found the following three steps necessary to achieve success for any objective.
- Find the Focus
There is a principle in economics called the Pareto Principle, sometimes referred to as the law of the vital few. Most know this as the simply as the 80/20 rule. Basically, it is a statistical phenomenon that states 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For many years, I have used this principle in my consulting practice for identifying areas of focus to improve profitability of corporations. I found this principle holds true in just about everything, and is a must do analysis activity to find the optimal area for improvement. For example, if your objective is to increase sales revenue, identify the 20% of the customers that make up 80% of your revenue. What is common about this group of customers? What makes them different than the others? What products or services are they buying? How can I get more of these customers? Gather all the possible insights you can to formulate an optimal course of action, a focused initiative to improve this aspect of your business. The goal here is to identify the one most impactful work you can do, leveraging the limited time you have.
- Find the Time
Finding the time in our chaotic schedules is never easy. Most business failures occur because we don’t take time out of working in our business to work on our business. I know it is an over used cliche, but it’s true. We have to find the time and discipline to block off undistractable time to execute on the strategic elements of our business model that will fuel growth, remove inefficiency, and make us successful. I have a mentor and friend that was an executive of a major corporation in my home town. Several years ago, the company was struggling and on the verge of collapse. With their share price plummeting, he and another executive committed to execute a transformative turn around to save the company. He told me the key to their success was finding the time to focus. For over a year, they would arrive at the office at 3am, focus on their mission, well before the distractions of normal business operations could derail them. They found the time to focus on the most strategic elements of their business, and execute an improbable transformation.
- Finish the Task
The entrepreneurs task list is ever growing, complex tasks requiring multiple steps or blocks of time to complete, or they often go unfinished. Bringing efforts to conclusion requires discipline, prioritization, organization, and planning. There are thousands of time management methods or systems to leverage, pick one that works for you. In general, they all boil down to the same basic principles; do the most important things that only you can do, delegate the things that others can do, and eliminate the distractions that rob your productivity. The deadly combination of perfectionism and procrastination will stagnate any effort made towards focused improvements, so finish the task.
There will never be more than 24 hours in a day, or more than 7 days in a week. So, when battling for focused time on the important aspects of your business, you have to kill the squirrels (distractions), define a course of action, and then execute to a full and complete conclusion.