Are you doing what is important, not what is urgent?

By Nick Fitzgerald, Business Advisory Director, Accounting Professionals

“I’m so busy right now,” is hands down the most common response I hear when I ask business owners, “how are you?” or “how’s business?”

And, sadly, the answer to my follow up question “how is cash flow?” typically doesn’t reflect someone so ‘busy’.

While it may be an over-simplification, in my experience, this lack of effectiveness stems from business owners focusing their time and attention in the wrong areas.

‘Working on the business, not in the business’ is a saying we’ve all heard many times, however, it is a most accurate motto when it comes to improving business performance.  Put another way, ‘doing the urgent instead of the important’ is an absolute killer in any business.

We all do it from time-to-time so don’t beat yourself up, but the quicker you realise this and break the cycle, the sooner you will make sure your future performance looks nothing like your past performance.

My out-of-office experience

I am always amazed at my own productivity when I spend a few days out of the office, usually at a conference, with limited accessibility.

With my trusty phone and iPad I field emails and delegate them. I miss calls and delegate the callback. Things get done and not by me. My focus is where it needs to be and, arguably, I am more effective when I’m not around.

The added benefit is I always return to the office with a renewed sense of clarity about what I need to achieve, mostly disconnected from the conference topic.

How to do the important, not the urgent

  • Understand and focus on the areas that will drive your business forward for the long haul, rather than reacting to who or what yells the loudest.
  • Define your role in the business and block out the rest of the noise.
  • Identify all of the ‘urgent’ tasks that suck your time and waste your day – what are they and who else can or should be doing them instead of you?
  • Focus on the profit-making activities, rather than the wage-earning activities?
  • Make and follow a business plan. There is always someone else that can manage and service most of your customers if you let them, deal with your admin or book your appointments. But there might not be anyone else who can help you determine your goals, develop your strategy or implement your plans.

Remember, this doesn’t happen by luck and doesn’t happen without investing the time required. It also needs to be built into your daily or weekly schedule and committed to, rather than planning to do it at night or when everything else is done. It needs to be the priority, rather than in the back of your mind.

Two types of business owners

There are generally two types of business owners we see in our practice.

  1. Those always hard to organise a time to meet with, changing, cancelling or missing appointments and always ‘busy’. Arriving frazzled and stressed from some emergency; and
  2. Those that deliberately organise an early afternoon meeting, showing up after going out for coffee or lunch. They walk in laughing and relaxed and are comfortably working four days a week while the business runs around them, sometimes without them.

Can you guess which one performs better?

Running a business profitably doesn’t come easy to anyone, most business owners have gone into business to ‘buy themselves a job’. All that strategy stuff doesn’t come naturally to most so they gravitate to where they are comfortable – doing rather than managing.

Success comes from focus, not from luck. What type of business owner are you?

You don’t have to do it alone

  • Surround yourself with strong advisors and mentors to keep you focused and on track, no one does it alone.
  • Check in with your advisor regularly, use them to keep you accountable, tick off your action items and achieve your goals.
  • And remember, do what is important, not what is urgent!

If you are struggling to find your focus or implement effective strategies, come along to our ‘Accelerate Your Business’ workshop on Thursday 18th October, or just give one of our business advisors a call on 02 4297 0066 – register for the workshop here.