You started your business to give you more freedom and way more money, but that’s not exactly what’s happening is it? If you’re like most entrepreneurs—you’re actually weighed down with a to-do list yet are struggling to make money. Why? It almost always boils down to time management. We spend countless hours on the busy work instead of the kind of work that brings results – you know, more freedom and way more money.
All that stuff that you do is important. I’m not arguing that. I am just suggesting that, like most entrepreneurs, you are prioritizing the urgent over the important. What do I suggest? Two things:
1. Prioritize tasks that will bring in revenue now. Money is the lifeblood of your business, and it needs to be treated with that degree of importance.
2. Prioritize tasks that serve (or rather wow) your customers. Wowing customers not only keeps them coming back (bringing in more money), but is the best way to market your business—word of mouth.
I know if you’re like most entrepreneurs, you have a to-do list that never seems to shrink—no matter how many hours you work. The reason you’re not getting ahead is because you’ve organized your task list by deadlines. Instead of cranking away on the money making and client pleasing items first, you’re a slave to deadlines. A better, smarter approach is to prioritize your list by what matters most, not by dates.
Think about it. If you had a customer standing in front of you with a big wad of cash wanting to buy whatever it is you sell, and the to-do list in your hand said, “Empty the trash, today,” or “Update Facebook status,’ would you tell the customer, “Hang on. Let me take this trash out,” or, “Let me finish Facebooking and I’ll be back later to take your money!”
Crazy, right? Of course you’d take care of your client (and their money) first, then take out the trash on your way to the bank! So why do so many entrepreneurs struggle with this concept of “important versus urgent”? Because we measure progress by due dates and not how well it serves us. And by simply changing the progress measurement on your to-do list from dates to money making, client smiling activities, you can reclaim personal freedom and accumulate riches. This is how you do it:
1. Maintain a paper task list. Yep. That new app is fun, but as much as you love your fancy productivity software, keeping your to-do list on a computer can cause you to go off on a tangent (called surfing the net). More importantly, every program I’ve ever used emphasizes due dates and percentages complete, which isn’t our focus. So get out the good old yellow legal pad and a good pen and start at the top.
2. Create four columns. Label them, “TYPE”, ‘FOR,’ ‘WITH’ and “TASK.” In the “TASK” column, write down everything you need to get done – one item per line. In the “FOR” column write down the name of the person/biz the work is being done for. If you’re doing it for yourself or your business, you would put “me” or “us” in when filling out the row. For the column called “WITH” enter the name of the person you are delegating work to.
3. In the “TYPE” column, write a dollar sign next to each task that, when completed, would bring in money in the next 60 days. Then, put a smiley face next to any items that, when finished, will make your customers happy. Now you have a short list of the really important tasks, a list you can manage, a list that will have an immediate, positive impact on your business.
4. Next, start ticking off items with dollar signs and smiley faces. The greatest priority items have both a dollar sign and smiley face. That means you have a task to do that will serve an existing client and make you money – this is the ultimate priority. And, when you dive into a new task, highlight it. This way, if you get distracted by the phone, or email, or one of your 537 Facebook friends, you can instantly get back on track by going to the highlighted task. When you complete a task, cross it off your list and go on to the next dollar sign, smiley face, or combo.
5. As you move through your day, new to-do items will come up. Write them down as soon as they come to mind so you can get back to your task at hand without worrying about remembering fleeting thoughts, or getting sidetracked contemplating how to complete that task. Then, at the end of your day, review your new to-do list items and, if applicable, add a dollar sign or smiley face.
This simple approach is the most effective productivity strategy I have ever followed. It consistently improves my business because I am consistently bringing in money and pleasing my customers. If cash is flowing and the customers are happy, who cares when I do the other tasks?
I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.