It can be really hard to plan for the future when there are an abundance of things in your business that you have to deal with today.
When your current to-do list isn’t getting done, how can you plan for the future? But just as finding the time to eat healthy food when you’re really stressed can help keep you on track and fuelled for challenging times ahead, finding time to do some planning can really help keep your business on track, and lay the groundwork for a smoother road ahead.
So how do you make the space? That’s what this article is all about…
Are There Problems To Address?
First you must do an assessment of the status of your business. Is there something systematically broken, or do you have a slow leak? Have you ever found yourself trying to fix a broken pipe with duct tape, thinking that if you just make a few small changes it won’t be too bad? Or maybe mis-diagnosing a problem, and ending up overdoing things and making things worse instead of getting focused and fixing the actual issue?
When you have a never-ending to-do list and you’re constantly running to put out fires it often limits your ability to see if there’s something wrong in your business, or how you could make things better. You may be using busy-ness to help you feel like you are making progress.
So take a step back and take some time to truly assess your business. Diagnose one issue that is keeping you from where you want to be. It might be a bad thing, or a good thing, for example not enough sales, or too many sales (that your team is struggling to handle).
Don’t feel bad about having a problem — it’s more important to understand what’s holding you back. What’s separating you from the success you deserve? Once you have determined that you can make sure your to-do list is helping you fix and resolve issues in your business, rather than masking them and letting them fester.
Once you think you’ve identified the issue you need to address, pass it by someone! Ask your team, a business partner or advisor – or even a friend – for feedback. If they agree, then you are ready to move forward.
It’s likely that you have more than one issue in your business, but don’t focus on that for the moment — it will just cause anxiety and put you at risk of immobilization!. Instead, focus on resolving that first issue. At this stage you need motivation, not anything that will discourage you.
Now that you know what needs to be fixed, you can work on an approach that helps you get there.
Hyperfocus – 7, 14, 30 Days
When someone is spinning their wheels with projects or tasks, I recommend starting with a planning exercise that focuses on one or two projects that will help strengthen the business, or resolve the identified issue by 50% within a short period of time. If you haven’t felt a sense of accomplishment in a long time, you might have unconsciously settled into a self-fulfilling cycle of disappointment, which obviously does not set you up for success. If you want different results, you have to change your actions and the feelings associated with them.
The hard part is often deciding which items to focus on. I suggest starting with a list of three or four ideas that you know will have direct impact on your financial status or your customers’ experience. These tasks/projects will ideally be items that you can quickly and clearly see will help you. Then, once again. present these ideas to a few trusted friends, family members or a business coach. Doing this will give you an external perspective.
If you still can’t decide, then simply pick two items on your list and get started. As long at you have picked something that is measurable and can be completed in 30 days, you will quickly know whether your improvements have worked. If you really struggle with decision-making, an even shorter turnaround time, like 7 or 14 days, is advisable. This will prevent you from spending too much time on the wrong project.
The goal with this is to help you prioritize and make decisions, as well as enable you to practice with a sprint approach to completing projects. Instead of working on multiple projects that move forward slowly, you will get to experience the rewards of completing projects in a short time period.
Set A Realistic To-Do List
When you have a to-do list of 20 things to get done in the day, the reality is that there are things that are probably just not getting done. So instead of pretending that you will get 20 things done today, then settling into disappointment when you don’t achieve all of them, give yourself a break and start with a more reasonable daily list.
As a general rule, take your current list of tasks and start with trying to complete 25% of them in the next seven days — I don’t mean make progress on them, but actually complete them.
Based on the example earlier, 1 issue and 2 projects,set up a to-do list that has only two items to complete each day with the goal of completing these projects in the next 14 days.
Split Your Tasks To Find Your Rhythm
This brings us back to the original issue: how do you make time for planning and working on those plans? Know that this is a process…once you start to revamp your to-do list and get more experience with completing projects, you will have more space in your week to work on future plans.
If you choose four things to complete tomorrow, two can be issue resolution and two should be planning. It might not be that perfect split every single day, but your overall emphasis should be on creating an ongoing balance between issue resolution and planning.
It might be difficult at first, but if you persevere you will find your rhythm, and one day soon you will realize that you have successfully made planning a part of your business, which will only help you on your road to success!
Clear a few hours from your schedule to take a step back. Brainstorm a list of ideas that could help to strengthen your business, or issues you know need to be resolved. Now follow the advice in this article, and get started with your DIY planning!