And the proven method for what to do first.
When I talk to most business owners, they’re overworked, working under their potential, and are always looking for ways to increase their effectiveness. I get asked all the time how a business owner can do more in less time. (The secret is that they actually have to do less - but I’ll get to that shortly.)
Entrepreneurs aren’t like normal people. They don’t have a desire to work from 9 to 5. Many entrepreneurs started their own business so that they could eventually be able to work only a few hours a week. Tim Ferris’s bestseller The 4-Hour Work Week is a perfect example of the entrepreneurial desire for the freedom of time.
Yet, most small business owners that I meet work far more than 40 hours a week - let alone 4. Why? The reality runs counter to the stated desires of most entrepreneurs. The answer is simple: complexity. The world we are living in is infinitely more complex than it was 5, 10, or 20 years ago. There are more options. There are more distractions competing for our attention.
The only small business owners who actually get to experience the freedom of time use some variation of this proven method.
Do less work, fill that time with better work, then scale your business to produce more. Said even more simply, Subtract, Add, Multiply.
If you’re ready to ditch the trivial stuff and accomplish the incredible, then read on. We’ve got the proven 3-step formula for you.
Subtract - Do Less
If you want different results from your business, then you need to change the activities you’re doing in and on your business. This means removing the least productive activities from your to-do list. You likely have an idea of some of the activities that you could or want to remove from your schedule. Start with the ones that drain your creative energy. That will have a huge impact on your attitude before you see a single tangible result.
There are 3 ways to subtract tasks:
- Eliminate - Just stop. Some things aren’t worth it. You know it. If it doesn’t add customer value, support the bottom line, or required by law - then you can choose to stop spending any time or money. You can also suspend tasks like this - press the pause button for a week and see what the feedback is.
- Automate - Today there is an app for almost anything. It is likely that you can take a manual task or step that you’re doing and completely automate it. Some other tasks can be partially automated, and we’ll talk about those in the next section. Pro tip: Automate before you delegate whenever possible. That way you can hand off your new system to your team member.
- Delegate - Put the task in someone else hands. The key here is leverage. If the task still needs to be done, and you can’t automate it, then you can still hand it off it if isn’t very high leverage to you. The key to delegating is to make your expectations clear and frequently check in to provide support and guidance. No delegating and running - that will waste incredible amounts of time and can cause good people to quit.
Add - Do Better
You might be feeling like you can do better at some parts of your job. I know that feeling too. And now you have newfound time to improve your skills with focused attention on the most important parts of your work. Look at the highest leverage tasks on your list. These are the tasks that you are passionate about, have a high-degree of competence, and can’t be delegated.
We have 3 techniques to help you do better:
- Deepen Your Understanding - As a business owner, your mind is the best, highest performing tool you’ll ever use. Spend time deepening your understanding of your customers and your employees. Hear how they talk about their struggles and successes in their words. Spend a day-in-the-life of an employee or customer. This will spark your entrepreneurial ability to solve more of their problems and make your company even more profitable.
- Batch Your Efficiency - Batching is the king of time management tactics. Let's use laundry as an example. If you washed your laundry every day you’d spend hours on a daily basis. Wash your laundry once a week and you cut that time in a third or more. So what can that do for your task list. Balance your desire to batch with your internal and external customers’ needs for a timely response.
- Systematize - As mentioned above, sometimes you can’t fully automate a task. But you can always look at tasks from a systems viewpoint. What are the inputs? What is the output? What are the steps? Minimize them all within reason and you’re well on your way to becoming a systems expert. Two easy examples: create email response templates, and make standing agendas for your regularly scheduled meetings. How easy was that?!
Multiply - Do More
At a certain point, you’re going to run out of time even when you are working efficiently. This is why there is multiplication. I had a client CEO who would do a webinar to welcome new employees and found herself doing these presentations weekly. On our recommendation, she multiplied her time by recording this presentation and send out a templated sequence of welcome emails for new employees for the first week. They got more contact with the CEO, and our executive reduced the time she spent monthly by 100%.
Multiplication is also about leveraging your business to do more. Taking your company’s abilities to the next level with growth.
Follow these 3 tactics and you’ll be on your way to a bigger, multiplied tomorrow:
- Hire the Best Team - Spend your money and your time to find the keep the best people. As simple as this sounds, this is the biggest stumbling block of growing companies. A special note to the business owner with the well-developed ego: hire people better than you, give them clear expectations and metrics, and give them room to make decisions that you might not make. That is why they are there. And that is why you hired the best!
- Dedicate Time to Work ON Your Business - With or without a great team, you need to be the captain of your ship. Your time needs to be spent working on your business as often as possible. These are tasks that focus on growth. They are the tasks where you are looking for the million dollar idea. This is the highest value time of your day, so treat it as such. Calendar it in and don’t let anyone or anything distract you.
- Focus Your Efforts with a Strategic Action Plan - The best people, with the best intentions, can still row their boat in circles if they are not focused in the same direction. This represents the power of a Strategic Action Plan. You may have tried strategic planning - but many business owners never see this brought into action. Creating the right action plan will unleash the highest potential from you and your best team members.
Who knew math could be so profitable?! Three steps, three parts to each equals 9 incredibly powerful ways to refocus your personal efforts and grow your business to incredible heights. My clients are taking these steps every day. I have the privileged position to see the effects of change in every one of their businesses. So my question to you is, what are your goals and how are you going to use these 9 steps to get closer to them this week?