If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you started your businesses because you didn’t want to work for someone else. At some point, reality sunk in. Your new boss works you to the bone and makes you feel guilty if you’re not working 24/7. You suddenly realise that your new boss is even worse than your old one. To add insult to injury, this terrible new boss is you.
Short of simply working fewer hours — and running the risk of tanking your business — how do entrepreneurs achieve a better work-life balance while increasing their bottom-line?
In a word: Focus.
The late Steve Jobs said focus isn’t deciding what to do, it’s deciding what not to do. Most people agree that narrowing one’s focus can be helpful, but few do it. That’s because it’s often unclear how to focus at a practical level.
Here are six simple steps to help you strategically focus on what’s most critical in your business life so that you can earn more while working less.
- Monetise your to-do list. Determine the financial value of completing every task on your list, then write those rand amounts next to the corresponding items. For example, if the task is to prepare a proposal to land a R250 000 contract, write “Finish Proposal (R250 000).” If the task is to return a phone call from your top customer, who generates R1 million in annual sales, write: “Phone Mary (R1 million).”
- Sort your list in descending order. Start with the highest rand amount at the top and the lowest rand amount at the bottom.
- Draw a line through the middle of your list. Split your list in half with the top most important tasks at the top and the least important 50% at the bottom.
- Spend four days a week working on the top 50% of your list. Focus on the main item and finish it before you begin the next item. If you can’t finish this item until someone else does something first, move on to the next item.
- Spend one day a week on the bottom 50% of your list. By forcing yourself to work on the less important tasks only one day a week, you won’t be able to complete them all. You’ll find that some tasks remain in the bottom 50% for many weeks. You should expect this to happen and realise it’s a deliberate byproduct of this approach.
- Re-evaluate the bottom 50% of your list weekly. Drop the tasks that become obsolete. If you’re forced to procrastinate on the unimportant tasks, they’ll stay on your list. It would be better to leave these items off your list. For example, if you have several R100 000+ opportunities at the top of your to do list, it makes sense to have the bottom of the list include items like reworking your company logo, scheduling lunch with someone who wants to pick your brain for free advice, or price shopping to lower your insurance rates by R7 000 a year. Focus is not free. To get extreme results from less work, you need to be willing to sacrifice good opportunities to focus intensely on great ones.
On a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being excellent, how good are you at prioritising your weekly tasks?