Help with prioritizing your business to-do list.

Some of the best advice that I’ve ever heard was how to tackle my “list” by breaking it into three activities: Do it, Delegate it or Delete it.  That’s been working for me for several years and I’ve even shared the “3 D’s” of business with you in this blog a couple of times before.  However, this issue continues to hound clients and the “3 D’s” just isn’t enough for some of them.  So let’s take a look at a little more strategic practice that you, your partners and your employees can participate in.

So Hard to Choose

Running a business usually means putting in over 40 hours a week.  In fact, if you’re the typical entrepreneur, you have more ideas that you want to implement than you have time for!  That’s when proactive, strategically executed prioritization can make all the difference.

If you have lots of ideas in your head or on your “to do” list that are not getting done, you’re certainly not alone.  Here’s a process for helping you decide what to do first, next, and not at all.

Step 1:  Write down all your ideas, tasks, “to do’s,” projects, and even activities that you need to do on a daily basis.  Use a spreadsheet and list each item in a row by itself.  Later you’ll want to be able to sort the list, so we recommend using Excel or another spreadsheet software.  Make sure that you include a section for your bright ideas that don’t need to be done now, but that you’d like to implement down the road.

Once you have everything down on paper, you will be amazed at how much this unclutters your thinking.  You will also have all your great ideas captured so you don’t forget them.  You might also get very overwhelmed, but don’t stop now.  Relief is on the way.

Step 2: Add some information about each item, creating four additional columns:

Column 1: Is this item about working IN your business (client work, overhead, etc.) or ON your business (new products or new services, developing procedures, hiring more staff, marketing, creating new partnerships)?

Column 2: Is this item revenue-generating?  Or will you lose revenue if you don’t get it done?

Column 3: Can you delegate this task or does it have to be done by you?

Column 4: If you were to hire someone to do this task, how much would you pay per hour?

Step 3:  Analyze your choices.  Once you have these additional items filled in, you can go wild with opportunities.  Here are some very cool eye-opening activities to try:

  • Separate tasks that are working ON vs. IN your business.  There is never enough time to work on your business, so force it by blocking out a few hours or a half-day a week and do it, no matter what.  It might be the best way to make progress in your business.
  • Sort the list by how much revenue the task could generate or how much potential it has, and decide how to prioritize from there.  If you need help calculating the ROI, return on investment of an idea, we can help you calculate that.
  • Take a look at what you marked “not able to delegate,” and ask “why not?”  Does a procedure need to be written?  Do you need more staff?  Does your staff need training?  Or do you need to learn to let go?  Whatever it is, and especially if there are a lot of these items, get these roadblocks tackled so you don’t become the bottleneck in your own business.
  • Sort the list by “column D” above, the market value you recorded for the task.  Then ask yourself what your hourly rate is.  How many tasks are you doing that are below your hourly rate?  Hiring someone to do your lowest level tasks could very well be another item you need to add to your new “to do” list!

This last one is really important, because it can so strongly affect the profitability of your business.  The last thing you want to do is go backwards and give yourself a demotion with a pay decrease, but that’s exactly what you’re doing each time you do a task yourself that’s at a low market rate.

Step 4:  Prioritize with confidence.   With all of this information in an organized spreadsheet, you will gain the clarity you need to make some powerful decisions about how to spend your time.

There’s nothing more precious and scarce than our time.  Every day, we have a choice about how to spend it, but too often we get caught up in the urgent, but not important, daily fires.  This exercise helps us take a step back and look at what’s important instead of what’s urgent.  If you need us to help walk you through this exercise in your business planning and strategy process, we’ll be glad to!

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