Do you have a top priority list? Maybe it’s time to start looking at things a little differently.

Using a high pressure nozzle…

Recently a business owner was talking about how he was pretty stressed. Overall things were going well for him, but he was in a constant state of crisis with a huge backlog of things to do. He estimated he had a list of 20 things to do that were all #1 priorities.

  • One of the top priorities was to develop a comprehensive marketing plan instead of dabbling here and there without an overall strategic direction.
  • Another top priority was to hire the right next employee – which actually led to an even higher priority of deciding which area of the business made the most sense for delegating responsibility. Should it be a sales/marketing person? Or should it be an operations/delivery person?
  • Another top priority was to get a long term vision down in writing, primarily so it became a concrete tangible set of goals to shoot for, but also so it could be communicated to the rest of the team. This was important to do before hiring the next person so that the vision could be explained to the next new-hire as part of the onboarding process.
  • Yet another top priority was to set aside some regular time to focus on sales strategy and develop some new ideas on how to close clients more quickly and easily.

He easily had 20 things on the list…and it was pretty clear that they were all very important.

Sound like anyone you know? Sound like everyone you know? Business owners often carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and they’ve got a lot to do.

Cleaning the driveway…

Have you ever had to clean off your driveway or sidewalk when it’s got all sorts of mud and dirt all over it?

The hose is the tool of choice, but if you just use a plain old hose the general result is that you end up spreading the mud and dirt around even more and don’t really make much headway.

However, if you attach a high speed nozzle and turn it to the ‘jet’ setting, it’s like putting a hot knife through butter. You quickly get down to bare concrete. You’re only dealing with a small section of the driveway, but it quickly gets washed clean and you can move on to the next section.

Before you know it, the driveway’s clean and you can start on the next job.

What’s the point?

When you’ve got a bunch of things to get done, it’s common to use a shotgun approach and multitask in an effort to get a lot of things done at once.

How’s that working out for you?

More than likely you’re just moving the dirt around and potentially making an even bigger mess than you had before.

You make a little bit of progress on several things, but nothing ever seems to get completed and this leads to further stress.

Try this – pick one or two of your top 20 priorities and just work on those until their done.

How do you pick what to do first? It probably doesn’t matter as much as you think it does, but if it feels better, spend 1/2 hour in a quiet place and prioritize your list. Look for things that are going to really make an impact. Think about in terms of the 80/20 rule. 80% of any outcome generally comes from about 20% of activities – the key is to figure out what your 20% is.

Once you get some ideas, take your short list to your coach or your peer advisory group and get some outside feedback on what you’re thinking (and feeling) as the top stress points. Are any of the items on the list going to make it easier to get something else done? That might be a good candidate. Or maybe you start with one that you know you can get done pretty quickly. It’s always good to build up momentum on success!

Even if it feels like it’s going to take a long time to get the whole list done if you go one by one, I guarantee it’s faster than not getting much of anything done and you will get a great boost every time you successfully knock something off the list. Typically clearing a big thing off the list will help address other issues as well.

Finally – it should be obvious, but the other part of this message is that if you or your team are working on something that’s not a top priority and not moving one of the key goals forward, you should STOP working on it! After all, there’s no bigger waste of time than doing something perfectly that need not be done at all!

Ultimately, the tangible benefits to your business don’t come from “effort,” they come from results. So get yourself laser-focused on seeing things through to completion instead of trying to do too many things and never finishing. It’s more fun, less stressful, and much more rewarding to you, your team, and your company’s overall well-being when things actually get done!

Go get ‘em!

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