The life of an entrepreneur can feel like a never-ending, death-defying juggle of imminent and urgent priorities while you are trying to negotiate the “high wire” between the concept, creation, execution and selling of your product. It seems like there’s so much to do and never enough time to do it all. You focus on product development but forget to start your marketing. You create a launch that brings in a wave of new clients but don’t have time to fulfill your promises to your existing customers. And like a high-wire artist, it’s usually just you (the solopreneur), or maybe you and a tiny staff supporting your efforts, as you try to keep all the balls in the air.
Most entrepreneurs think the solution is to manage their time. So they may study Stephen Covey’s “urgent versus important” principles, or turn to David Allen’s Getting Things Done, or Tony Robbins’ Rapid Planning Method, or DayTimer or BaseCamp or the latest time management app. And still they find themselves with too many balls, not enough hands to keep them spinning and an increasing sense of never being able to catch up.
As productivity guru David Allen points out, “No [time management] system is going to tell you what to do.” Time management is far less important to your success (and sanity) than learning and following a few key principles of priority management.
To help you establish the right priorities for both your business and your life, we offer you the following six key steps to effective execution.
1. Know Your Purpose
Product creators find themselves under constant, often conflicting deadlines. You need to create your product, design the launch sequence, build your email list, negotiate with vendors, find your affiliates—all at the same time. It’s far too easy to find yourself driven by whatever is putting the most pressure on you in any given moment. But being ruled by external (or internal) pressure won’t help you make progress on your real priorities. And the only way to be clear on what’s most important is to be absolutely clear on the purpose of your actions.
What needs to be your top priority, and why? Knowing the “why” behind your choices will help you organize your time and priorities better than anything else. And when you marry a strong purpose with the steps outlined , you have a clear system for setting priorities that will lead you from point A (idea) to point Z (your product in many, happy customers’ hands).
2. Dedicate Time to Plan
Stephen M. Covey once said, “Doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right things”—and, even more important, doing the right things the first time. To execute your priorities and purpose, you need to take the time to plan your actions. An hour spent on planning can save you ten hours of doing.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall prey to the trap of executing constantly, without taking time to think about the big picture. When you’re busy, it may feel like you don’t have time to stop and plan. It may even feel like you’re wasting precious time planning when you could be doing. However, imagine what a time waste it would be if you spent a day on a promotion that you end up scrapping because it’s targeted at the wrong audience. That’s why it’s critical, even when you’re busy, to set time aside to consider the larger implications of what you’re doing and to re-organize your priorities.
3. Prioritize What’s Important in Your Day, Week and Product Creation Process
Prioritizing what’s important doesn’t just mean deciding what to do first; it’s also about deciding what you as the product creator must do, and what you can leverage or subcontract to others. No one can accomplish all of their priorities by themselves. Look at your plan and highlight the things that (a) only you can do, (b) you have expertise in and can do easily and quickly and (c) you can leverage to others. Then do your best to focus only on the items you listed as (a).
Remember: even if you are great at building websites or writing blog posts or contacting affiliates, every moment you spend doing those things are moments taken away from the stuff only you can do. It may be tempting to do the stuff that’s easy or enjoyable, and often the stuff only you can do is difficult. Keep your priorities straight, your purpose in front of you and tackle what only you can do first.
4. Use a “Top-Down” Process to Set the Right Priorities for Life
Priority management means taking all of your life into account, not just your business. If you don’t make your health one of your priorities, you won’t be around to enjoy the success of your product. If you don’t make your family one of your priorities, you may find yourself rich, successful—and alone. If you fail to make the running of your business a priority while you delve into creating your product, you may end up with no product and no business.
Remember the Pareto Principle? It started as an economic theory but it has become a guideline for maximizing productivity. The Pareto Principle states that 20 percent of your efforts will actually produce 80 percent of your results. The trick is figuring out which 20 percent gives you the biggest bang for your buck! When you look at your priorities—in life, in relationships, and in business—ask yourself, “Which of these priorities will give me the best results for the investment of my time and energy?”
A fast, yet consistent workout may help you stay in shape better than a long weekend run, for example. Tucking your kids into bed every night or spending a quiet evening with your spouse may make you and them feel closer than that big trip to Disneyland you’ve promised them after you launch your product. And spending an hour to find a trusted subcontractor to leverage pieces of your product creation effort may be a much better use of your time than trying to do it yourself.
5. Be Proactive
Easy to say, hard to do. For most entrepreneurs, it can feel as if all they do is react to ever-changing circumstances. But anticipating what will be needed and proactively pursuing chosen priorities are the keys to keeping overwhelm at a minimum.
Two very simple ways to increase your proactiveness are, first, to develop productivity rituals and routines that you follow religiously. It’s far easier to exercise if every morning you hop out of bed and go for a run or a swim rather than having to decide, “Do I want to exercise today?” It’s easier to make progress on product creation if you religiously devote a certain day, amount of time, or amount of action to it no matter what. Rituals and routines cement your priorities into even the craziest schedule.
The second way to increase your proactiveness is to do some “worst-case scenario” planning right from the start. How will you handle it if your supplier misses a deadline, your video camera blows up, there’s a computer crash in the middle of your launch, and so on? Having a pre-thought-out Plan B ready to go will help keep you out of reaction and proactively moving forward on your priorities.
6. Pre-Empt & Produce
You’ve undoubtedly heard the old story about the best way to fill a jar with the maximum number of rocks, pebbles, and sand: you put the rocks in first, then fit the pebbles between the rocks, and pour the sand over everything. Your priorities are the “rocks” that go in first. Pebbles and sand are either (1) distractions that will kill your momentum or (2) other people’s priorities that may have nothing to do with your goals. Your priorities need to pre-empt any pebbles or sand that might draw your attention away from what’s most important—producing the results you are after.
***Source from Mike Koenigs***