When you’re running a business it can feel like you’re juggling a million things, and that’s before you even start to think about the bigger picture and planning ahead.
It seems logical that you should prioritise those tasks which feel most urgent. And, don’t get me wrong, some of them probably really do have to be priorities.
But if we devote all our time to fire-fighting, we are never going to get out from under the overwhelm, and we’re likely to be spending a lot more time than we realise doing things that aren’t actually helping us to earn more, work less, and definitely not to live more fully. So, how can you know what your priorities really are?
Urgent and important are not the same thing.
Firstly, it’s vital to fully recognise that many of the most important things in our business are not immediately urgent.
Sometimes they’ll be fine for a while, but eventually become urgent and end up causing us much more stress than they needed to (hello, leaving your accounts until the day before the deadline) and sometimes they will never be urgent, and so we’ll never do them, when they’re probably exactly the things we SHOULD be doing. For example, emailing your list. The world is not going to end if you don’t send them an email this week. They probably won’t even notice. But, before you know it, it’s been months since you emailed them, and they’ve completely forgotten about you. Your leads have dried up, and when you do finally get around to emailing them, they unsubscribe because they don’t remember signing up for your emails in the first place.
Look at the bigger picture
However busy we are, we need to consciously set aside time to look at the bigger picture and prioritise tasks accordingly. Partly this is about being clear about our overall goals. The more we consciously know what we’re trying to achieve, the simpler it is to decide if a particular task is a priority, and the less likely we are to waste time chasing after another shiny object. Oooh! Pinterest looks fun…..
And if there’s one simple rule of thumb for this, it’s asking yourself, what are the potential impacts of taking these actions? What difference would it really make to my business if I did this or didn’t do this?
You’ll find that some actions will have a huge impact, while others won’t matter much at all.
According to the Pareto effect, 20% of what we do is what will produce 80% of the results. So, identify and focus on that 20%.
Identify and remove bottle-necks
Remember that the impact can be positive (this will add lots of people to my mailing list) or it can improve a negative (this is taking up far more of my time than it’s worth)
Especially if you’re often struggling for time to take those positive actions (what busines owner isn’t?) identify those activities which are eating up your time, but which have little or no real effect, or which could be automated, or delegated or even eliminated in order to free up more time.
Ask yourself, if I wasn’t already doing this, knowing what I know now, is this something I would now choose to start doing?
Maybe you’re plugging away on a social media platform that you know hasn’t ever brought you a client for example?
Or maybe your admin systems could do with a shake-up? Are you still creating and sending invoices manually? How much time would it save in the long-term if you culd automate this? How could you use that time to do something that would actually earn you more?
Then pick 3-5 actions that you could take this week or this month that will really have an impact, and which you can realistically achieve in the time you have available. If some of them are big ones, then what’s the first meaningful step you could take towards achieving that bigger goal?
Plan exactly how long you think they’re going to take, and put that time in your diary (or even better in your Earn Learn Thrive Productivity Planner!) See it as an important appointment with yourself, and prioritise it.
After a few weeks, look back at what you’ve achieved, and note the positive impact on your business. Then prioritise tasks for the next few weeks.
As a freelancer, you’re also a business owner, not just an employee, and responsible for driving the direction of your business. So, give yourself the time and space to do this, and get out from under that mound of ‘to do’s’.
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If you’re an ELT freelancer/business owner you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the business advice out there…
Should you start a podcast or a YouTube channel, a mailing list, a membership? Is it a good idea to keep things as simple as possible, or should you be looking to diversify? What does scaling even mean, anyway?!
Would you like some clear step by step advice tailored to your stage of business?
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