Setting up and running a successful business or enterprise is a herculean task reminiscent of the Hero’s journey. This 4 part self-development programme looks at how you can succeed in business. In Part 1 we looked at Archetypes and how to leverge their power for success. In Part 2 we looked at the Hero’s journey, where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going.
Now we dive into:
Entrepreneurial Traps and how to avoid them
We’ve all been there. The tough start up phase when you’re sitting waiting for success and clients to pour through your door, the phone to ring, and orders and inquiries for your services to overwhelm you only to find yourself struggling with impatience and a sense of doubt about your success. Hold on! This is normal.
Instead, I hope to share with you valuable, easy and effective strategies to focus your mind and energy on. Activities that will indeed help you make the success you desire. As an entrepreneur, you are likely to find yourself thinly stretched and having more to do than hands and hours. But what if you could focus your energy on just a few precious tasks with the belief that your efforts will definitely pay off? In my experience, working with clients and my own work, that is the key to high-level productivity and getting results. I have been running a workshop on getting things done for over four years and the strategies below are based on research with over 2000 people learning to become more productive. In this third part of the series, the Hero will get tools that boost productivity, increase your motivation and get results.
Get Productive: 13 strategies
1. Focusing on one item at a time
We are often told that multitasking is great but research tells us this is faulty thinking. Every time you switch focus, your brain gets distracted and has to refocus. This can take up to 20 minutes. Refocusing your mind wastes valuable time and also subconsciously will make you feel frazzled and scattered. Multitasking adds stress to your plate but rarely real results. It also robs you of intense focus where you’re working at your most efficient in the zone mode. When you bring focus to one item at a time, you bring all of your brain to it as well. This means you are working at your very best. Focus on achieving your goal or outcomes, give it a clear time frame that’s realistic and avoid getting interrupted. And most importantly don’t interrupt yourself.
* Example: Make 5 sale calls in the next hour then take a well-earned break.
2. Completing tasks you started
One of the most common trappings of busy people is starting many initiatives but rarely completing them to a point of achieving a real result or significant pay off. This is a mistake both in terms of productivity and building confidence. Starting jobs but not getting them to a significant milestone also drains valuable energy and makes people lose momentum as they feel their efforts are vast and results small. Instead, focus on completing one significant activity to a point where your results will give you real satisfaction and serve as evidence that you are indeed creating success.
*Example: Follow through with each client until you get a firm sale or at least learn why your service or product is not proving popular.
3. Getting maximum impact from effort
Each of us can take many actions within the day but not all efforts are equal. Working with impact involves making sure that when you exert energy, you get as much out of it as possible. For example, if you created a great service, before you undertake developing new products are you marketing what you have to all the relevant people? You will be surprised by how much more value you can extract from the work you have already done. And that’s where impact really resides. If you did an interview or a trade show, are you using your effort well in your business to help you attract new clients?
*Example: Take your existing service, product or activity you completed and brainstorm how you can use your existing work to generate business. Then action each idea.
4. Tackling ‘huge’ jobs in steps
Entrepreneurs are hungry for business and success. So it is easy to say yes to things and then struggle under the pressure of fulfilling requests and meeting deadlines. So the key to sustainable productivity,(which is what I’m passionate about), and to managing your mind, is to break big tasks into small, doable chunks and to focus on the short-term. It’s like a long trek. If you think of the whole distance, the total distance can easily overwhelm your mind. If however, you think about what’s needed for today, you begin to regain confidence that the work is actually manageable. Breaking things down also enables you to delegate work better and ask others for specific help (see strategy #6).
*Example: Creating new business leads by placing 1-2 marketing calls each day. That’s 40 new leads each month.
5. Breaking the perfection queen
Often when people start something they aim to deliver the very best. This is good. If your product or service disappoints, you are not likely to succeed. Often, perfectionism spills to other tasks where perfection is not only unnecessary but where it can, in fact, be deadly. To be productive and get more valuable things done in your day, you will need to know the difference between where you need to be top notch and where good enough is fine. Focusing on what’s needed in each situation is often useful. One thing to remember with perfection of course is that it’s never ending. What’s perfect today, will be only good enough tomorrow and may be not competitive in a year. This is especially true for services. So, aim to do your best now and to continuously improve your offering as you go. And avoid getting to the point where your perfection overwhelms you to the point that your services suffer as that will be passed onto your client and you will lose business.
*Example: Spending disproportionate time and money on flashy website when your key business comes from 1:1 direct marketing or personal connections. Develop a simple site and get out there instead.
6. Tapping into others for help
By far the most underutilized productivity strategy is asking others for help. Inability to ask for help can arise for many reasons: lack of confidence, feeling a sense of guilt, or fear of appearing less capable, having no one to ask around or believing you need to be perfect. But remember, as Hero, you are on a journey with others: people who can be your mentors, business partners, supporters, champions and valuable friends and contacts. All those who go at it alone, face isolation and in the end have to do extra work to get their services and products introduced to a market where no one knows them. Having networks and building tribes is key to provide you with potential clients, customers and helping you build your credibility. As a rule with my clients, we spend 10% of time on building connections with other people. Many are excellent helpers to others.
*Example: Ask your contacts to help you spread a word about your service or offering and supporting others in exchange.
7. Working with your best energy
Part of the advantage of working for yourself is that you often have more flexibility about your working hours and indeed activities compared to people working for others. You often work to your own deadlines and priorities instead of having them imposed on you from elsewhere. And yet, many people get caught up in predictable routines that do not work for them. They try to do the 9-5 at home for example when instead their best time may be 8-10pm. Or they work exceedingly long hours sacrificing their life and getting into terrible drain where mistakes double up and results suffer anyhow. I hope you see my point. Productive people are highly self-aware and know when they are at their best. They also know and can maintain healthy boundaries between life and work, even if their office is at home. In my own work with clients, I often spend time actually helping people work that out by studying their own patterns from evidence. We can tap into this information and use it for helping them work at their best and also enjoy their lives.
*Example: Scheduling business development meetings when you’re at your mental and physical best.
8. Doing your most creative work in small chunks
For many people finding uninterrupted time is difficult. We are constantly running between meetings, events, activities and tasks and yet there is often at least an hour of time that for many translates into wasted time. In my Get Productive system, I help clients convert those down times into productive time by inviting them to create structures and plans to do short creative work in draft form that can save them valuable time later on. This doesn’t necessarily mean work. It can also be short activities that support people’s emotional state or help them feel good about themselves.
*Example: Sketching a rough layout of your website while waiting for a client to turn up.
9. Taking responsibility
The key difference between working for someone else and working for yourself is the level of responsibility you carry for the outcomes you create. When you’re the entrepreneur, there is little room to hide. If something doesn’t get done, or go according to plan, it is down to you! In the end, if things are less than you will have to make it right, learn from it or fix it. Productive people are individuals who take 100% responsibility for the outcomes they create. No ifs and buts about it. They make stuff happen. They follow up. They say I’m sorry. They consider how they may have been at fault. They seek to understand before being understood. They listen. And they invite others to problem solve together. Then they wake up and do it all over again on a consistent basis.
*Example: If you’re late with work to a client or if a relationship is not developing as you would like admit what’s true for you, inquire what can be done, offer ideas and co-create a solution.
10. Working with facts
Productive people are focused and efficient in their efforts. This means that people work with facts instead of getting caught up in gossip, assumptions, second-guessings and head games. There is no time for it and any time spent that way is truly wasted. This includes getting angry, venting, complaining and similarly unhelpful behaviours. All they can do is erode one’s confidence. Instead, productive people aim to work with facts. They gather data. Examine what is. Ask questions. And work together with others that are involved to come up with workable solutions and plans. The same applies to financial forecasting, marketing and business development. Go back to what you have in hand. Revisit what has worked before and redeploy it. Stay grounded and let the facts inform your actions.
*Example: Look at your financials on a regular basis to understand what’s working in your business and what needs your attention.
11. Having a plan and sticking to it
Any project that is made up of more than a couple of tasks needs a plan. But often having a business plan in hand, people forget to create other plans that are equally valuable such as a communication strategy, marketing plan etc. Plans create schedules which in turn make your daily activities far more structured. This means that at the end of the day or a week you can count on a list of specific actions that you have taken to really push your business forward and feel good. Plans also create valuable boundaries between work and the rest of your life.
*Example: Have a short-term monthly plan of activities and expected outcomes. Stay focused.
12. Binning stuff you really shouldn’t be doing
Heros are busy people. It is undeniable that the Hero evolves and grows within the journey and it is unrealistic and potentially harmful if she has no awareness of where her actions are key and where she is dispensable. One of the key things that keep us in activities we should not really be doing is comfort and safety as well as satisfaction that we are doing that particular job very well. The trouble is, that while we stick with what we know, we miss out on critical activities that may need to be done in favor of what we like doing. And that’s a costly mistake. Sometimes, we even do things that really add no value at all. Things like twitter, or e-mail or networking that has little added value unless it is core to the business.
*Example: Finding a part-time assistant to help out with sale calls or virtual PA to save administrative task time.
13. Finding true lynchpins
Lynchpins are key linkers. They are like magic gates that seem to unlock significantly more possibilities than other actions. Productive entrepreneurs find real lynchpins and focus their efforts there. This can mean working on a powerful endorsement for your product, a large size contract etc. In my workshops, I teach people a number of creative problem solving techniques to ensure they locate their lynchpins. So spend some time looking at all of your activities and note which activities generate most value for you and where your focus and energy needs to go.
*Example: Focusing on landing a big client with credibility that can open doors to other similarly lucrative contracts.
Get Productive Exercise
Looking at the 13 strategies outlined above, consider the following questions:
- Which of the 13 strategies are you currently using to their maximum?
- Which of the 13 strategies are you not using at all presently and what is stopping you?
- For each strategy note down 1 action you could take over the next 7 days, to help support your success better.
Being an entrepreneur you are likely facing a long list of things to do and likely carry this feeling that all of it should have been done yesterday. If that’s you, I’d like you to stop! This is not only highly unproductive but also erodes your sense of achievement when you’re already working very hard. Any energy you likely spend in impatience or beating yourself up is simply wasted. Turn that around by taking concrete action with Get Productive strategies. Set challenges and then rise up to them like a true Hero. You’ve set on your journey because you believed you could do it and you can!
I hope in this article you have discovered strategies that you’re already using well and those that are either underutilized or not being used at all. Give yourself maximum chances of success by tapping into all 13 prongs of attack and trust you will succeed.
I hope this article empowers you with insights, inspiration and gives you valuable tips and techniques to create your success. In our fourth and last section of this series we will come back to the Hero, how we can support her and look after our well-being to sustain the effort and performance over the long term. I hope you will join us.