time poort

Strategies for Time Poor Business People

Written by: Alan Rodway

Business owners and key people in private business have every right to claim that it’s one thing to think about or know what to do to improve the business but finding the time to implement change is extremely difficult. We are flat out just doing the work and (think) we don’t have time to do much else.

Business success depends on how four elements:
  1. Direction & Strategy
  2. Expertise
  3. Resources
  4. Courage

It’s actually that straight forward but of course, it’s difficult to implement.

The first thing that must happen is the realization that a good day’s work is just that.

It does not help any business get across any of the four required elements above. It’s one of 10,000 in a 40 year career of 250 work days per year .. that’s just 0.01%. It’s not making any difference to anything except to today. It means the business and your career will be the same tomorrow as it is today. This is the single most important fact to internalize or the feeling that “I’ve got to get the work done” will continue to be the (unproductive) key driver of behaviour. There are a few things that make it difficult to overcome this thinking:

  1. The importance of the customer/client. They must come first, we must do everything for them, our business depends on them. Let’s accept this is true in principle. But when it leads to a concentration on doing the work and not much on the business improvement front then the experience provided to our purchasers can deteriorate and we are then going against the principle itself.
  2. The dependence of staff on us. This is fundamentally flawed for long term improvement of the business. Sure, staff training, including on the job training, is important, but we need to facilitate their own learning and development, not cultivate dependence.
  3. Many of us have been brought up on a strong work ethic and feel it’s not real work when we are thinking, creating or even over-seeing. But it’s not just about how much work we do; it’s also about the four elements of success above. Letting go of thinking that working hard is the answer is difficult but it’s necessary. Of itself, working hard does not create success. Many people work hard but don’t get far and, in fact, sometimes become worse off.
  4. A feeling that everything that’s ‘on’ at the moment has to be dealt with because of deadlines that make it feel urgent. But the high payoff activities are the important activities, not always the urgent ones. We must give our time to the important activities and the urgent/important activities, not the urgent/unimportant nor the unimportant activities. Stay aware of this on a daily basis and if the feeling is that everything is important then that’s an absolute pointer to a lack of thought, awareness and planning.

There has to be a circuit breaker for anyone feeling overwhelmed or that it’s all too hard. Time out is absolutely necessary in that situation. To genuinely review and just.

If we can’t change our psyche from work to thought then we will always be drawn to just ‘doing the work’ and feel that the rationale for that is sound. Then things will never change from busy-ness to more productive.

Some practical suggestions, but only once the above understanding is internalized:
  1. Every key person in business should cut out 6 x 1/2 days in a year to create better ways forward. That’s only 1.2% of 250 days in a working year! If the preparedness (or understanding) is not there to do that, not much will change. We simply can’t rely on any excuse to not do this, including some of the ‘reasons’ above or a dislike of foregoing fees/income. Anyone not prepared to commit to this approach is destined to stay the same or go backwards. These 6 x 1/2 days should be spent with others who can think and contribute to business improvement, and they don’t all have to be ‘paid’ .. just return the favour to them somehow.
  2. Don’t try to do everything you think should be done. Our brains play tricks on us into into believing that if we don’t get it all done the world will stop. It won’t.
  3. Figure out the single most important thing that should happen in the business, be stopped or be changed … and get across that.
  4. Focus on decisions not discussions.

Train yourself to always consider if there is a better way of doing something, during all of your days, so that you are thinking about ‘improvement’ and not just the ‘do’.

  • Figure out the most important set of expertise the business is missing and set about getting it on board … there are always ways.
  • Technology is crucial to business success today. Ensure it is present in or for your business. It’s time saving in the long run as well as everything else it does for us Find the ways to utilise it effectively.
  • Re your customer/client base:
    1. Too many businesses have too many customers/clients.
    2. Too many businesses have unprofitable customers/clients.
    3. Too many businesses have non target or non acceptable customers/clients.
    4. So, say No to the next customer/client if they don’t fit your target or acceptable criteria and take the next 12 months to get rid of those you already have that you shouldn’t retain.

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