If I had a hammer

If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the evening. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer all over this land. I don’t know about you, but thinking about doing all of that hammering makes me a little tired. If I had that much hammering to do, it might make sense to invest in a nail gun.

Don’t get me wrong, I like hammers. In fact I have 6 different hammers, ranging from a 12 ounce claw to a 20 pound sledge. Hammers are great tools. They allow us to drive nails and break things. But sometimes there is a tool that works better than a hammer. Sometimes there is a tool that will get the job done faster and more efficiently.

Unfortunately, many small business owners hammer away all day long and never spend a few moments looking for a better tool. They think that old ball peen they inherited from their father is the only tool that will work.

While that hammer may do the job, it has its limitations. You could use it to break up a concrete slab, but it would be a slow, laborious task. But in a figurative sense, this is precisely what many small business owners do.

Rather than using the available tools to build a better business, they plod along doing things the same way as their predecessors. Rather than take advantage of the technology available today, they use an abacus to do a computer’s job.

The ironic thing is, they are basically using their forehead as a hammer. They are beating their head against the wall and then wonder why they have a head ache. If they’d only pause and reflect on their situation, they might realize that their head can be used as more than a hammer.

Getting stuff done

If you have trouble getting stuff done, the problem might be the type of stuff you are trying to do. Or when you try to do that stuff.

While this video is intended to be humorous, it demonstrates how easily we can get sidetracked from getting our stuff done. One thing can lead to another, and pretty soon we haven’t gotten our stuff done.

This is where prioritizing and planning can help. Much of the stuff we do isn’t urgent, or is simply spur of the moment and therefore inefficient. By prioritizing we can identify what really requires out attention. By planning we can group together tasks to improve efficiency.

A simple example of planning is to run multiple errands in one trip. Another example of planning is to schedule some “down” time– play a game, read something humorous, or tackle some task that doesn’t require a lot of attention.

We all have stuff that we need to get done. How we plan, prioritize, and schedule our time will have a lot to do with how much of that stuff we actually get done.

Important vs. urgent

There are four ways to categorize any task:

  1. Not urgent and not important—such as playing computer games.
  2. Urgent but not important—such as answering the phone. It needs to be done now, but may have no significance.
  3. Urgent and important—such as getting an extra gallon of paint so the crew can finish the job.
  4. Not urgent but important—such as working on systems for our business.

Tasks that are not urgent and not important should generally be avoided, unless they are for purposes of relaxation. They are simply a waste of time.

Tasks that are urgent, but not important can also consume a significant part of our time. Yet they contribute little or nothing to our long-term goals. These should be delegated or outsourced whenever possible.

Tasks that are urgent and important are a major cause of stress. These tasks need to be done now because the failure to do so can create other problems. These tasks should be anticipated and addressed before they become urgent. By anticipating you can deal with them while they are important but not urgent.

Tasks that are important, but not urgent help us build our business. Planning and systems building do not need to be completed today, but these tasks move our business forward. Failing to spend time on such tasks ultimately forces us to deal with more tasks that are urgent and important.

As owners of a small business our goal should be to spend as much time as possible on this last category of tasks. The more we do so, the more efficient and smoother our businesses will operate.

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