8 Ways To Create The Business You Really Want
Do you feel like you are working really hard, putting in long hours, but still find your business is heading nowhere? Did you accomplish the goals you set for yourself last year? Did you earn all the income you wanted? Did you implement everything you planned?
If “Yes!” – then GOOD for you. Congratulations!
If “No” – then we might need to talk. If you are working around the clock, but are not seeing the rewards you think you should, you might need to make some changes. I suspect it’s just a matter of optimizing the hours you work and working smarter. How do you accomplish that? It’s simple. Go back to the BASICS.
Bit by Bit
I don’t believe in making big New Year resolutions; I prefer to sit down and plan what I’m going to do. Then, I break down my goals into mini-milestones that I want to reach on a daily basis.
Do you remember when Alice of “Alice in Wonderland” discusses which way to go with the Cheshire cat? She was directed to go anywhere, because she did not have a clue where to go. At times, that’s how our business and personal life end up.
When we don’t have a plan, our businesses end up running us instead of the other way around. With a plan like that, it will be extremely hard for you to reach your desired goals. It is time to put on the brakes, get out of the passenger seat, get back in driver’s seat and take full control of the wheel.
Endings and Beginnings
So, here’s what I suggest. Let’s kick off the New Year using a simple system involving the power of images to work smarter instead of just harder. Steve Covey, a leadership, management and personal development guru, says, “Begin with the end in mind,” and I totally agree with him.
What do I mean by that? Well, it requires you that you visualize your long-term plans, coupled with an end date. Then you write down these goals. I believe creating a mental picture in your mind of a clearly defined goal is the best way to achieve a dream. Why? I believe your subconscious does not know the difference between what’s real or unreal.
So, once you set the image of a defined goal in your mind your brain goes to work ensuring that you complete the task. I have found that this visualization technique is a useful business-growing tool. Many find it a catalyst for achieving personal goals as well. One of the best ways to combine both aspects is to start a business journal. If you don’t already do this I encourage you to start one right now! I’ll even show you how at the end of this article.
A Purpose-driven Life
In addition to keeping a journal, you can work smarter by coupling your plans with a specific purpose. Then ask yourself how you will pull this off and how you plan to quantify the results. Remember to review your plan often to ensure that your working hours are focused solely on the end goal.
I suggest you break the bigger goals into do-able mini-milestones. Any successful entrepreneur has already figured this out. She knows the power of crafting a plan and how to break it down into palatable bites. She knows that if she doesn’t, her goals are apt to fall apart.
Many businesswomen have stumbled over this pitfall and some of them don’t recover. I don’t want that to happen to you. I don’t want you giving up before reaching your end goal. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m a strong advocate of thinking big, but it is really important for you to break down those big goals into digestible chunks. That way, you avoid getting overwhelmed.
Once you define your mini-milestones, you’ll want to set specific end dates for the most important ones. Shoot for evenly spaced milestones on the calendar. It’ll keep you sane. Research shows that we tend to pay better attention to deadlines when they are at the end of a week or month instead of the beginning.
Minding your P’s and Q’s
OK. What’s next? You’ve broken your goals into chunks, so now you want to start your weekly planning. Set up some time – around 60 minutes – to look at each of your upcoming mini-milestones.
How do you choose which goal to concentrate on first? Start by identifying the key ones that you think will have the biggest impact on reaching your end goal. Perhaps you can brainstorm with your virtual assistant, plan your marketing strategy, create systems for social networking, draft the table of contents for your next ebook, book or workshop, etc.
Remember, get all these tasks written down in your business journal, so you can visualize what you need to accomplish during the week.
Next, prioritize. Put your tasks into time slots, which will allow you to focus like a laser on completing your outlined tasks. The main goal is to figure out what you need to accomplish every day in order to get closer to your big end goal. The visualization and writing are tools to kick start the process, but the moment of truth is when you know exactly what you are going to do today with your time. Let me give you an example.
As a solo-preneur and mom myself, I run a pretty tight ship when it comes to my daily schedule. I have exactly four hours each day to work on my tasks, so using the method I just described is crucial. This strategy has allowed me to create a successful business, and I can’t emphasize it enough. If you have a long-term vision, this is the way to reach it!
So how do you effectively plan your day?
Take 10-15 minutes each day – either at the end of the day or at the beginning – and write down the tasks that you need to accomplish the next day. I know this sounds simplistic and you have probably heard it before, but having an elementary “To-Do List” with digestible chunks is the only economical way to optimize your time and get things done.
Do you remember that book by Robert Fulghum, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well, that title sums up my fondness for the basics. By setting up a 15-minute meeting with yourself (maybe 1 percent of your day), you will be able to focus your efforts and get great returns.
Once you have a to-do list in place, organize it. No matter how long your list is, rewrite it by order of importance. In addition, you might want to group things that can be accomplished together so you get the best use of your time. One of my simple practices is to organize my tasks so that the complex jobs get addressed early in the day, when I have the energy to do them.
Do not put items that you don’t want to do first. I have found that never works. These are simple but real ways to shake things up. (Remember, the whole idea here is to do things differently so you can take your business to the next level with less effort.)
Don’t Let Them Drag You Down
Next, avoid distractions and keep things realistic by creating blocks of time – say 20-45 minutes – in your schedule or whichever time block works best for you. During each block, only concentrate on the task at hand. Avoid taking phone calls, twittering or answering emails.
Stay focused on what you are doing for those 60 minutes. I have a trick. When I really want to get something done or I have a tight deadline, I use an egg timer. Yup! Ms. Sophisticated Business Woman uses an egg timer! I put it on my desk, set it for 60 minutes, and get to work. It works like magic. It keeps me focused. I stay focused and don’t let anything break my concentration, unless it’s an emergency. Checking your email is NOT an emergency! Besides, you actually should have a virtual assistant doing that for you…but that’s another lesson.
One Ring-y Ding-y
… After the “Ding,” get up. If you have been working intensely for 20, 30 or 60 minutes, your brain needs a break. To stay productive, take a moment to stretch, walk around and take a few deep breaths to clear your mind. Then, you will be ready to embark on your next mini-goal. These breaks should be scheduled. There should be no specific tasks allotted for that time.
If something does come up during your other blocks and it’s really important, then you have a built in cushion. If that particular issue is not that critical, but you think it should be addressed, then just move it to your next break-time slot. Finally, I encourage you to see the completion of your mini-milestones as small victories.
And what do you do when you have a small or big win? You celebrate! This is such a key part of keeping things fresh. Make sure you celebrate your accomplishments, paying close attention to what you did to get you there.
Celebrate Good Times…Come On!
I have found that as you learn new business techniques, you want to create your own personalized “system.” This way your success becomes a given, especially when you start outsourcing tasks. End your celebration with lessons learned. In other words, evaluate. What went as planned, and what needs more work? What needs follow up or a change of direction? Don’t forget to write it all down in your business journal. Now comes the good stuff.
Without organizing and prioritizing, most solo-preneurs follow The Pareto Principle, or the 80:20 Rule. That is…80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. That means that 80 percent of your results are achieved with only 20 percent of the effort you put into something.
Put another way…most of our daily work (80 percent) is spent doing tasks that do not have our end goal in mind. Now, imagine if you could change that ratio around. Take that 20 percent of that focused work and increase that number! Do you see how doing that just slightly would help you achieve your big business vision that much faster?
Let me be frank. Is responding to someone’s blog, accepting yet another friend on Facebook, twittering all day long, checking your emails constantly, and answering your phone really more important than accomplishing your end goals? Are those things more important than getting more clients or making more money? How about it?
Are they more important than simplifying your business, so you can establish a freedom-based lifestyle?
Where exactly do these sink holes – these non-productive activities – fit into your long-term vision? A POWERFUL VISION (which will be the topic of an upcoming “back to basics” article), mini-milestones, mental images of weekly tasks, prioritized daily jobs and focused time blocks are the things that make up a successful businesswoman’s checklist. It’s the way a you ensure your time and energy are protected and optimized.
Your Action Step
First. Start a business journal. I can’t stress this enough. It is absolutely crucial to keep track of all your thoughts, victories and discoveries. Just buy a three-ring binder or create a Word document on your computer and write everything down. Seriously, write down what is working, what’s not working, ideas…everything.
Secondly. Plan your week ahead of time. Be specific. What are you going to do? Then take action on that plan. Use the visualization technique, set goals, write them down, and break everything down into doable tasks. Keep end dates in mind. Block out times for all your mini-milestones. Prioritize them, and then work steadily on those tasks until completion. Take breaks. Do not work more than 60 minutes at a clip. And, most importantly, remember to think of prioritizing your mini-milestones as part of growing your business each day.
Once you’ve started your business journal and implemented the “working smarter” techniques that I’ve just shared with you, then you are ready to implement systems, automate and outsource in a big way!