Connect with us

Get Organised

The 5 Secrets to Prioritisation

Time is money and for entrepreneurs, it’s imperative both are utilised to their fullest. To maximise both, founders must prioritise.

Jake Gibson

Published

on

Galia-Kerbel

When we first started out, we were wrestling with some problems on how to build our personal finance website, NerdWallet. I got some great advice from my friend Drew Houston (the founder of Dropbox).

“It’s okay to have growing pains, as long as you’re prioritising correctly and working to address them. Every company looks messy from the inside,” he told me.

Am I prioritising correctly? There’s the rub.

When I was working on Wall Street, prioritisation was dictated by the situation. Compared to growing your own business, prioritising on a trading floor is easy, because you’re always putting out fires but you know what the fires are. But knowing how to prioritise to ensure your business makes millions of rands in the next six months – that’s a more difficult task.

Here are some lessons I’ve learnt so far.

1. Beware the seduction of task-based lists.

The elements of prioritisation are simple: Know what tasks need to be done and rank them in order of priority. Stephen Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame suggested ranking tasks across four metrics: important/not important and urgent/not urgent.

Obviously, tasks both urgent and important go first, issues not important or not urgent go last, and the rest fall somewhere in between. You’ve got your list.

This is fine, but the process can create a false sense of satisfaction: If I cross everything off this list, will I have done my best work today?

This might work for middle managers at a mature company, but for an entrepreneur this can be a Sisyphean exercise in futility. You’re never going to finish that list and would waste time each day revising it on the fly.

Galia Kerbel, founder of award winning company Greater Than PR

“Earlier in my career I worked for Marcus Brewster, who mentored me. He followed the Eisenhower Decision Principle, which basically states that what is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important,” advises founder of award winning company Greater Than PR, Galia Kerbel.

“Urgent tasks need your immediate attention, put you into a reactive mode and narrow your mind-set. Important tasks contribute to a long-term vision and mission. Operating in this mode puts me into a responsive mind-set that helps me to spot opportunities.”

2. Focus solely on themes that will drive growth.

Of the 100 things that crowd the entrepreneurial mind as things you ‘need to do’, about 98 will incrementally improve your company – but two have the potential for exponential growth. Focus on those few, and the rest of your niggling worries will take care of themselves.

A better way to think of prioritisation is not tasks but themes. What are the two or three principal things that will drive growth? You really have to understand the key drivers of your business and anything that doesn’t move those drivers isn’t a high priority.

For example, in the early days of NerdWallet, a key driver was getting the most amount of web traffic in the least amount of time. That became a filter through which we sifted every task and decision. If it didn’t meet this metric, it wasn’t a priority.

3. Forget perfectionism.

Entrepreneurs are often Type A over-achievers. It’s really hard to let things go unfinished and not be perfect. But if you’re serious about prioritisation, you need to be able to drop something midstream to focus on another task that has greater potential to drive results.

It may feel counterintuitive, but in the rough-and-tumble drive to start a company, perfectionism can be a problem. You have to be willing to do things half way just to get more done with the higher chances to yield strong results. A big ask for high performers.

4. Do the hardest thing first.

Procrastination isn’t a species of laziness, it’s avoidance – and we naturally avoid things we don’t want to do. Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, once said that the first thing he does in the office each day is the task he dreads the most.

Whatever you don’t want to do, do it first, and it eliminates the nagging dread that will sap energy away from other tasks as you postpone the inevitable.

5. Don’t plug leaky boat holes — switch boats.

If you’re spending your time spreading your fingers and toes across leaks springing up through the hull of a business venture, you may wish you had more feet and hands to cover the deck. But maybe the real problem is the boat itself.

As NerdWallet co-founder Tim Chen puts it: “Don’t spend your time plugging a leaky boat, spend your time switching boats.” Time spent bailing is time taken away from adding more profitable vessels to your fleet.

Prioritisation pressure never goes away. If things are going well in your business, something will always seem on fire. If you’ve got things under control, that’s a big red flag – it’s a sign you’re doing what’s urgent, and not what’s important.

Jake Gibson is the co-founder and advisor of NerdWallet, a startup focused on offering price-comparison tools for financial products. Prior to joining the company, Gibson did a long stint at JPMorgan Chase, where he traded derivatives and managed new automated trading technologies.

Advertisement
Comments

Get Organised

Finding Your WHY This Year (Why Do YOU Get Up In The Mornings?)

If you wake up every day for something you believe in, you will live your purpose.

Jade Amic

Published

on

simon-sinek

I had a long conversation with a colleague and I asked her if she knew why she did what she did. What was her reason for getting up in the morning?

I contemplated the question I had just asked and realised it was not such an easy question to answer. I had spent years figuring out what’s important to me in my life and my career but had not yet figured out exactly why I do what I do. Why do I get out of bed every day and do this advertising thing? What do I believe in and why do I believe in it? What is my why?

This led me down an interesting road of self-discovery, and it soon led me to Simon Sinek. I immersed myself in his podcasts, TED talks and books and began to understand why some companies are successful and why some aren’t. I learnt about the Golden Circle and how all companies know what they do and how they do it, but very few know why. I learnt that people don’t buy into what you do, they buy into why you do it.

why-how-what-graph

Simon says, (sorry, I had to!) “There are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

Related: 50 Inspirational Quotes To Help You Achieve Your Goals

We are inspired by leaders and organisations that communicate what they believe in. They have the ability to make us feel special, safe, like we belong, and like we’re not alone.

Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers are great examples of people that started from the inside out, they all started with their why.

Sinek points out that “Leaders have a rank but those who lead, inspire. It’s leadership’s responsibility to point North, say where we’re going and allow everybody else to figure out how to get there.”

I could see the value in these great leaders finding their why but I hadn’t quite answered my own question – What is my why?

Using the Golden Circle I worked my way from the clarity of my ‘what’ to the fuzziness of my ‘why’.

The more I unpacked this, the more I realised how it influences so much more than just my career choices. It influences my life choices as well. It impacts my relationships with my colleagues, my goals and it helps me prioritise what is important and what isn’t.

I’ve learnt that to truly understand your why, you need to understand what it is that you believe in and value. You need to allow these beliefs and values to guide you – to become your North Star. Your compass. When you know where you’re going, (and why) you’re flexible along your journey. But if your destination is unclear, the route you’re taking and the obstacles that come with it become your focus.

Knowing what you do is easy.

Knowing why you do it, that’s the part that takes work.

But once you’ve figured it out, you’ll find yourself being drawn to people and organisations that have a similar why to you. You’ll find your work has more meaning, and doing that work, becomes more meaningful.

If you wake up every day for something you believe in, you will live your purpose.

Start with why by Simon Sinek.

Related: Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

Continue Reading

Get Organised

6 Steps To Go From Procrastinating To Productive

As an entrepreneur, practice saying to yourself, “I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.”

Jeffrey Hayzlett

Published

on

Procrastinating To Productive

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we have tasks on our list that we’d rather not do. So, we keep moving the goal post farther down the field and do almost anything we can to avoid those distasteful jobs.

Personally, I don’t like to get involved in extra paperwork or monthly expense reports. Other founders have their own least favorite activities.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because there’s an obvious solution: delegation. As a matter of fact, I created a motto along these lines: I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.

My job, after all, is to concentrate on the bigger parts of the business, like generating revenue. And while there are other such tasks that are necessary to operating a business, I might be avoiding them too because they slow me down. So, I again delegate them to the team.

I guess in a way, we’re all capable of being procrastinators.

According to a 2013 survey by salary.com, 69 percent of survey respondents said they wasted time at work on a daily basis – a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Thirty-four percent of respondents estimated they routinely wasted 30 minutes or less each day; 24 percent said they wasted between 30 and 60 minutes; and 11 percent said they wasted hours every day.

As a business owner, I could see how those numbers might send my fellow owners’ blood pressure through the roof, but my own response would be more practical: I’d pursue tools, tricks and techniques to minimise procrastination and maximize productivity.

Related: Deepak Chopra Has 3 Simple And Surprising Productivity Secrets For You

Here are a few of those techniques:

Don’t overwhelm yourself

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work on your plate, meetings and deadlines. Lately, I’ve been focusing on launching new avenues for C-Suite TV, and it can be overwhelming sometimes.

When tasks seem insurmountable, here’s one way to lessen that burden: Get out your “to-do” list. Then, instead of writing down that big task as one huge thing, break it down. Breaking a big task into multiple line items makes it more manageable. You have your end goal, but by reducing it to its smaller components, you get a clearer picture of what you need to do.

Crossing off the smaller parts of the larger task gives you a sense of accomplishment you wouldn’t have if you tackled the massive task all at once.

Flip the script

I don’t care who you are: Whether you’re a worker, a manager or a CEO, you’re just like everyone – and we all hate doing certain tasks. So why not flip the script?

Bite the bullet, kiss the frog – whatever you want to call it: Put that task at the top of your to-do list that day. You’ll eliminate the task quickly and move on to the rest of your day. Not to mention, you’ll have a bigger sense of accomplishment knowing that you’ve steam-rolled the largest obstacle you had awaiting you.

Related: How To Make Better Business Decisions That Drive Productivity And Profits

Forget perfection

Everyone wants to make a good impression and put his or her best foot forward at work. Procrastination comes not from the inability to get the job done, but from fear and insecurity. Being unsure how to perform a specific task makes us fear failure and being seen in a negative light by the boss.

I always tell my team that, “No one’s going to die.” What’s the worst thing that can happen if a specific task isn’t perfect? I might get mad if the task is not completed within the given deadline, but not if it merely needs to be tweaked. Many times, the worst conversations happen inside our own heads and we let that imaginary conversation rule our other decisions. That’s when we make mistakes.

If you’re worried about your work quality, allocate a set amount of time each day to complete (or revise) parts of the project. It’s possible to perfect a task without obsessing over it and losing focus. That’s when you know it’s time to let go of the project and focus on other things. Say it with me: No one will die.

Kill the squirrels (or distractions)

squirrels

It’s easy to procrastinate with the million distractions we have every day. According to a survey by Stop Procrastinating, 68 percent of Americans surveyed said they’d been distracted from their work duties by checking their emails, browsing the web or engaging in social media. And that was a 9 percent increase from a year before. Of that 68 percent, 39 percent said distractions cost them a whole hour a day.

Sure, it’s tempting to constantly check your Facebook or Twitter feeds, but here’s a radical concept: Log out of your social media accounts for a few hours every day.

Instead, focus on your tasks and nothing else. Do whatever it takes to get into the “zone,” to accomplish your goal. Some people at my office use headphones to muffle outside noise. I block out time on my calendar, which my employees have access to, and dedicate that time to a specific task I need to accomplish. I may even specify “no phone calls” to ensure I stay in my zone.

Be a good time manager

To transition from procrastinator to proactive leader requires organization on your part, from your mindset to your schedule. It’s hard to be organized when you feel you’re juggling multiple things, but to succeed, you must learn to juggle. Deciding how much time to dedicate to each task makes you more efficient.

For some of us busy executives, even our down time needs to be scheduled.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

Recently, I attended the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit, where I mingled with top economists, business leaders and policymakers. I had a busy schedule, interviewing a top CEO. But I also managed to schedule down time. Being from South Dakota, I enjoy the outdoors so I scheduled some fly fishing time – away from technology, emails and phone calls.

If you’re a good time manager, you’ll have time for everything, including play time. It takes some dedication and discipline, but it’s not impossible.

Remember that the early bird gets the worm

I operate on little sleep. As any workaholic will tell you, when you go to bed at night, you can’t wait to start your day the next morning. Indeed, dawn is the most productive part of the day, according to this Wall Street Journal article. That hour of the morning brings minimal distractions, no email and hardly anyone on social media.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, starts his day at 3:45 a.m.. Richard Branson likes to “sleep in” until 5 a.m., and even my friend and fellow entrepreneur Peter Shankman gets up before it’s light out. As a business owner, entrepreneur and keynote speaker, I’ve done my fair share of early mornings; You’d be surprised how much you can get done by the time everyone else walks in the office.

The one takeaway here is that in order to make a successful transition from procrastinating to productive, you have to be disciplined, motivated and focused: disciplined enough to curb distractions, motivated enough to want to reach your end goal and focused enough to execute a plan that works for you.

We’re all different, so there’s no magic bullet solution for procrastination. But if you can build a plan that works for you, work the plan.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Continue Reading

Get Organised

(Infographic) The Organisational Tactics, Work Habits And Routines Of The Most Successful People

Take a look at how some of the most successful people set up their workspace.

Published

on

oprah-winfrey-desk-management

How your workspace is set up can help or hinder your productivity. So what makes for a great workspace?

For inspiration, see how people such as Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey organise their desks and surroundings. Of course, different tactics work for different people. So to maximise productivity, find what best suits you.

While many people believe a clean desk will provide clarity and decrease stress, that’s not what Albert Einstein thought. In fact, Einstein was a supporter of the messy desk, having once said:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

Related: 5 Habits You Should Steal From Other Entrepreneurs’ Morning Routines

Mark Zuckerberg prefers to have the same desk as every other Facebook employee. Studies have shown that open floor plans can encourage creativity and productivity – especially if you’re rubbing elbows with the CEO.

Another option is the standing desk. According to research, productivity can get a 10 percent boost when using a standing desk. An avid user of the standing desk was author Ernest Hemingway, who put his typewriter on top of a bookshelf in his bedroom.

Check out National Pen’s infographic below to see the desk styles of some of the most famous people history to today.

national-pen-famous-desks-infographic

Related: 3 Daily Routines For Becoming Happier And More Successful

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Continue Reading

Trending

FREE E-BOOK: How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Sign up now for Entrepreneur's Daily Newsletters to Download​​