Do Effective Things Well

Too many ideas, not enough time. That's how I often feel. I'll admit, it's one of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to running a business.

I've decided that learning to focus on what's important and say no to what isn't important is my resolution for this year.

I'm usually skeptical about making resolutions. All those extra people at the gym in January - I know most of them will be gone by February. But I'm convinced making this change would have big, positive repercussions, so I'm committing to it here to give myself more accountability.

I also suspect I'm not alone with this problem, so I thought I'd share my plans to manage this weakness.

The Problem

I'm great at the big picture - Coming up with ideas, researching, planning, working on the initial stages of implementing a project - I'm all over that. 

But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty details, somewhere along the line I lose focus. Something else always comes along that's new and exciting or seems extremely important in the moment, and I allow that new thing to steal my time and focus.

For example, I've just reorganized my computer files, and in the reorganization, I've found three business-related projects all in various states of completion. All three projects are useful, and I'm sure readers would find them helpful. All three projects also have good potential to help me achieve my own business goals. But they sit there, half finished, because I became side-tracked by something else that seemed more important at the time.

It's the digital equivalent of having a closet full of half-finished craft projects. Sad to say, I also have a closet like that, but that's another story.

It's not that I didn't do a lot of work over the past year, but I did allow myself to be side-tracked by projects that were less important and less impactful.

The Plan

This year I resolve to focus on doing effective things well.

The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus. Alexander Graham Bell

For me, that means:

  • Seriously assessing the potential return on investment before committing time to something.
  • Not letting myself fall in love with my ideas without assessing them first.
  • Saying no to projects that demand resources (especially time resources) but don't have a strong potential to move my business goals forward.
  • Getting help where I need to and finding a balance between saving money and saving time
  • Focus! Once I determine something is worth an investment of my time, I will finish what I start in a timely manner and before taking on a new project.

As I see it, there are two major components to this resolution:

  • Deciding what is most important
  • and
  • Sticking to it

To decide what is most important and stick to it, I've created a business plan. It's not the type of formal business plan you'd write for investors. Instead, it's a personalized plan that shows me what I need to know to stay on track.

  1. I've listed my most important goals, outlined the steps necessary to achieve those goals, and created a timeline to show when major stages of a project should be complete, so I'll know if I'm on track or not.
  2. Although I have big-picture goals for the whole year, I've only made a detailed plan for the next five months. That way, I can assess where the plan has taken me in five months and decide the next steps when I get there.
  3. I've also been very careful to avoid over-planning. I'm usually over-optimistic about how much can get done in a given time frame, and that can thwart the best of plans. So, I have tried my best to avoid packing each month with more than I can realistically complete.
  4. I'm trying out Evernote for managing all of my information. Things have a way of "disappearing" on my computer if I need to shift my attention somewhere else for a while, so I need one orderly place to keep track of projects and progress. A lot of people say they love Evernote, so I thought I'd give it a try. So far, it's working well, but I haven't used it long enough to say for sure.
  5. I'm sure my plan doesn't sound terribly revolutionary for those of you who are better at staying focused, but keeping things simple was part of the plan. I didn't want some complex time management system that was, itself, a chore to manage. I've tried a lot of those schemes, and none have ever worked for me.

Things to Remember

Time is a commodity

As a small business owner, you only have so much time to invest in your business. Time isn't "free" it must be spent wisely. You don't want to waste time pursuing business opportunities that aren't right for you.

Just because others do it doesn't mean you have to do it.

What's right for one business isn't right for every business. Just because other craft business owners are pursuing a certain avenue doesn't automatically mean it's right for your business. Assess the value of opportunities and the likely time and money cost before diving in.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Not every project is worth your time. Jumping on every shiny project that comes your way will inevitably get in the way of completing the most impactful projects. This year I will ensure the things I do have the best return on investment, and I'm hoping it will allow me to do fewer thing but accomplish more.

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