To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The same can be said for running a business. Hours bleed into days, days into weeks, weeks into..well, you get the picture. Time begins to slip away with commitments like fund raising, selling, hiring, building, learning and oh yea, managing a business. In fact, I’d argue the an entrepreneur’s second most valuable resource is time (the most valuable resource is cash, or “the oxygen of the business” as a friend of mine likes to say). Most entrepreneurs are continuously faced with challenging trade-offs related to how they decide to spend their time. Here are four habits I’ve learned to practice to keep me focused on what matters when it comes to spending my time growing a business.
At the end of each week, generally in the morning, I schedule a 30 minute meeting with myself. I find that the meetings are most effective when I have them before I open e-mail and allow the priorities of others to impact my own priorities. The first thing that I do in that meeting is to reconnect with my purpose. I have a list that describes who I am and who I want to be as well as a list that describes who the company is and who it wants to be. I read the lists each Friday. I’ll spend a little time thinking about whether or not I’m aligned with those lists. I’ll take 5 minutes to jot down how I’m measuring up to both my personal and professional lists to ensure that I’m pointing towards the same target as when I started out. There are times when I’m not and I need to course correct and there are also times when the target has changed (for example, a change in market or company objectives). In these cases, I’ll re-read and re-write my lists to account for what has changed. The point here is to regularly check in with my big picture aspirations to make sure that first, they are still my aspirations and second, remind myself of why I’m doing this things that I do.
After reconnecting with my lists, or manifestos if you will, I’m in a good mindset to review the week that has passed. I ask myself about the high points of the week and the low points of the week. Then I spend about 5 minutes jotting down why I felt that way. Next, I take a look at my weekly goals (more on that later) and evaluate my progress towards each. This process gives me a weekly scorecard of sorts. One of the challenges for entrepreneurs, especially early stage entrepreneurs is that it’s hard to measure progress in ways outside of revenue. By setting and measuring progress against goals you set, you can more honestly connect with how you are faring in terms of building your business.
Having reconnected with my mission and evaluating last week’s performance, it’s time to plan next week. My next step is to list out the top 3 most important items that I must achieve in the following week. To be effective, the goals must be measurable. For example, work on SEO is not a good goal. Increase SEO traffic by 10% is a good goal. Lots of times my goals end up being yes/no types of goals. Over time I’ve learned to limit my high level goals to 3 because more than that tends to lead to spreading my energy too thin. So, I ask myself, “what are the 3 most important outcomes that must happen in the next 7 days for the week to be a success”. From there, I can plan out the steps to achieving those goals on a daily basis.
Being an entrepreneur takes enormous energy and requires lots of personal accomplishment. Additionally, it requires lots of help from others. I end my weekly planning sessions with a note to someone who helped me out that week. In addition to being the right thing to do, it helps me stay connecting to others and end the week on a positive note.
Setting aside a regular time and repeatable process for measuring progress is critical for anyone, especially entrepreneurs. In addition to the weekly planning, I find a similar process at 90 days as well as once a year can go a long way to battling distractions and ensuring you are achieving the results that you want.
What are your pro-tips for staying focusing?