Long-term success requires a long-term commitment

I hear a lot of small business owners complain that they simply can’t find the time to work on certain projects. They want to develop systems and procedures, or improve their filing system, or complete some other project that will have long-term benefits. But they just can’t seem to squeeze the time into their day.

Brian Tracy offers some tips on how to make better use of your time.

Some people allocate specific 30-60 minute time periods each day for exercise. Many people read in the great books 15 minutes each night before retiring. In this way, over time, they eventually read dozens of the best books ever written.

The key to the success of this method of working in specific time segments is for you to plan your day in advance and specifically schedule a fixed time period for a particular activity or task.

Long-term projects require a prolonged committment– consistent steps in the right direction. By setting aside some amount of time each day or each week to work on a project you are able to make gradual, yet consistent progress.

Many highly productive people schedule specific activities in preplanned time slots all day long. These people build their work lives around accomplishing key tasks one at a time. As a result, they become more and more productive and eventually produce two times, three times and five times as much as the average person.

Like many time management tips, this is easier said than done. The daily demands of owning a business, in addition to family, friends, and hobbies, can stretch your time very thin. Focusing on priorities, rather than the interest du jour, keeps us moving toward your long-term goals. And to keep that focus, you must regularly schedule time to work on those projects.

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.