Working Effectively

Keep Doing… Do Better?

You are doing good things. Keep doing these. Do them better.

In every business, there are certain activities or components that are key and essential to drive results and achieve the goals that have been set. Every business needs to identify these and it is important that the standard is maintained and possibly even improved. You also have to identify the daily, weekly and monthly activities that lead to achieving the results you are looking for. In most cases, just a few activities directly lead to the outcome being sought and everything else is what we in StrategyPal call “stuff”.

Richard Koch in his book, “The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less” argues that the biggest impact in our work comes from a small number of initiatives (the “vital few”) instead of most of what gets our attention (the “trivial many”).

It is no coincidence that peak performers maintain good habits, but sometimes they take steps to up their game – they want to ‘do better’.   Where can you DO BETTER? Competitors will always strive to improve and so it is essential that a modern enterprise is continually seeking to do better.

There is always some scope for improvement in ever business; depending on your enterprise you may – improve your customer service, improve your product, make a website more user-friendly, make deliveries more time-efficient, improve cash flow, incorporate new technology, etc.

Start Doing

To reach your goal, do new, powerful actions.

So, what is it that you have not been doing that you need to start doing in order to improve your business?

Take time to analyze your business practices to identify what you need to do in order to be successful; this is an important step toward accomplishing your goals.

No business has reached perfection; there will always be something that can be done to make the enterprise more cost effective, more efficient, more wide reaching, etc. Identify areas in which there is room for development or improvement and decide what needs to be done in order to reach these goals. It is important to continually seek innovation and to further develop your business.

Stop Doing?

To reach your goal, stop doing things that hinder you from achieving your goal or make it difficult for you to start doing new things.

Typically, when businesses create a business plan, they focus on the things they are going to start doing when often to start with they really need to focus on what they will stop doing.

There have been aspects to your business that were not efficient and did not contribute to the success of your business. These may range from personally spending too much time on certain activities or spending revenue in areas that were not cost efficient. It is important to review and recognise what areas of your enterprise were not beneficial to the success of your business and to stop spending time or revenue in these areas. Often an owner will spend too much of his personal time on day to day activities rather than delegating these responsibilities to his employees; if this is hindering the development of the business as it is not being managed in the correct manner then it is important that he / she  STOP this and START delegating to his employees.

We all have ever growing ‘To Do’ lists.  This is natural – being busy feels like being effective.

We add items to them and check them off as they are completed.  We can even choose among a myriad of ‘To Do’ Apps.

Productivity is something that most of us struggle with and there are lots of things that we should stop doing in order to have more time and increase our productivity.

Maybe we should also consider ‘To Not Do’ lists – a ‘To Not Do’ list is a great way to stay productive.  To quote Jim Collins “Work is infinite, time is finite”.

Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” says: “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit …”

The premise is clear – what do you need to stop doing in order to free up time for the things that really matter?   Habit and sentiment are often not reason enough to keep doing.

Working ‘On’ Your Business

When you started in business, you were wearing many (if not all) hats in terms of establishing supplier relationships, taking and fulfilling customer orders, answering phone calls, dealing with customer complaints, and much more.  How much you continue to be directly involved in these routine day-to-day tasks depends heavily on the vision you have of what you want your business to be, and how much this requires you to work on the business rather than in it.

There comes a point where you must transition from “doing” to “leading.” This means stepping back from day-to-day operations and moving into the role of leader – “getting things done”, as opposed to doing it yourself.

It means delegating significant responsibilities to your employees – for many entrepreneurs this is more easily said than done.

Learning to delegate is a continuing process. 50% of success is hiring the right people. The other 50% is creating excellent systems, processes and work practices ensuring everyone knows clearly what their tasks and responsibilities are, and which of them take priority over others.

You need to:

  • provide direction
  • set limits to their responsibilities and authority
  • hold them accountable
  • hold regular review meetings
  • formal performance reviews, providing feedback.
  • provide necessary training and up-skilling

Once you put the right team, systems and processes in place, and create a culture of action and accountability, your business should well-nigh run itself.

Then you can devote time to strategic planning, delineation and execution, providing the vision essential to your company’s long-term growth.

Work ‘On’ not ‘In’ Your Business

Successful people have a vision of their business.  They work on their business not just in their business.

Successful people don’t wait to see what is going to happen, they make things happen. They see their vision clearly and take action.

Stop working in your business as an ‘employee’ and start working on your business as an owner.  Working on your business includes activities such as:

  • developing a clear strategy for the next couple of years
  • executing your strategy
  • implementing your marketing plan
  • improving business operating systems
  • developing budgets and projections
  • etc.


Time Management

Where do you keep information regarding your time?  On our workshops people tell us they keep it in:

  • diaries
  • PC’s
  • tablets
  • mobile phones
  • refill pads
  • post it notes of every colour
  • their heads

This issue with many of us is that crucial information concerning our time is scattered and dissipated across a number of areas.

This has two distinct drawbacks:

  1. we are vulnerable to losing vital pieces of information (Billions of dollars are lost indefinitely each year through mismanagement of basic time details such as following up enquires)
  2. it is difficult to plan strategically when time information is not in the one place.

The solution is to agree on one planning system for committing all time details to.

The past is history.  The future is a mystery.  Today is today.  That’s why it’s called the “present”.

Deepak Chopra

Imagine for a moment that you were given €86,400 today, on condition that you had to spend it all today or else it reverted to StrategyPal.

Would you be able to spend it? I bet you would.  You could probably easily think of any number of things you could spend it on.  It probably wouldn’t even require much thinking or planning.

Now imagine if this was to happen on a more protracted basis – say for a period of a month.  By now you would have spent close to €2,592,000 – you would have satisfied many of your immediate needs.

Would you continue to spend it or would you just let it fritter away?

I’d wager you’d still spend it but now you would have to think and plan more carefully and methodically as to where the money would go and who would help you best spend it.

The exact same obtains with your times. In essence, we are all given an investment of 86,400 seconds every day. Some days, we think and plan carefully and methodically as to how best to invest our time. Other days, we just let it fritter away.

The choice is yours.

A small investment of time on a daily basis can greatly increase the productivity of all the other seconds in the day.

Twelve Time Management Habits to Master in 2013

Forbes Magazine, Pat Brans, Contributor

Nearly three hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin came up with an approach to changing habits that has yet to be surpassed. A young adult seeking to straighten out his act, Franklin developed a list of thirteen virtues, jotting down a brief definition of each. These were character traits he took to be important, but in which he found himself lacking. He knew that nurturing these habits would bring about positive change in his life.

Starting at the top of the list, Franklin spent one week working on each virtue. In the morning he thought about how he would reinforce the new habit throughout the day. During the day he looked at his notes to remind himself of the new habit. At the end of the day, he counted how many times he fell back into the old habit.

While Franklin was surprised at first to see how “faulty” his behaviour was, he was so resolved that he pressed on, working through the entire list in a thirteen-week cycle, and completing four such cycles in a year. As for results, he noted in his autobiography that while perfection was unattainable, he could see big improvements.

Modern psychologists recognize three key elements in Franklin’s three-hundred-year-old procedure for changing habits:

  1. He started out committed to the new behaviour.
  2. He worked on only one habit at a time.
  3. He put in place visual reminders.

Applying Benjamin Franklin’s Method

Here are 12 time management habits for the new year. Tailor these as you like, but whatever you do, work on one each week using Benjamin Franklin’s method:

Habit 1
Strive to be authentic. Be as honest with yourself as you can about what you want and why you do what you do.

Habit 2
Favour trusting relationships. Put your efforts into building relationships with people you can trust and count on, and make sure those same people can trust and count on you.

Habit 3
Maintain a lifestyle that will give you maximum energy. Work your way up to doing aerobic exercise at least three times a week, eating a light lunch, and getting enough sleep.

Habit 4
Listen to your biorhythms and organize your day accordingly. Make it a habit to pay attention to regular fluctuations in your physical and mental energy levels throughout the day; and based on what you learn, make adjustments to how you schedule tasks.

Habit 5
Set very few priorities and stick to them. Select a maximum of two things that are your highest priority, and plan time to work on them.

Habit 6
Turn down things that are inconsistent with your priorities. Get good at saying no to other people, and do so frequently.

Habit 7
Set aside time for focused effort. Schedule time every day to work on just one thing.

Habit 8
Always look for ways of doing things better and faster. Be on the lookout for tasks you do over and over again, and look for ways of improving how you do them.

Habit 9
Build solid processes. Set up processes that last and that run without your attention.

Habit 10
Spot trouble ahead and solve problems immediately. Set aside time to think about what lies ahead, and face all problems as soon as you can.

Habit 11
Break your goals into small units of work, and think only about one unit at a time. Spend most of your time working on the task in front of you, and avoid dreaming too much about the big goal.

Habit 12
Finish what’s important and stop doing what’s no longer worthwhile. Don’t stop doing what you considered worth starting unless there’s a good reason to give it up.


Effective Meetings

People spend so much time in meetings that turning meeting time into sustained effective results is a priority for any successful business. Actions that make meetings successful require management

  • before
  • during, and
  • after the meeting.
As Stephen Covey says in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Before the Meeting to Ensure Effective Meetings

Actions before the meeting establish the groundwork for accomplishing meeting results.

  • Plan the Meeting
  • This will determine the meeting focus, the meeting agenda, and the meeting participants.
  • Make Sure You Need a Meeting
  • Ensure Appropriate Participation at the Meeting
  • Distribute and Review Prep-work Prior to the Meeting

Providing pre-work, charts, graphs, and reading material 48 hours before a meeting affects meeting success. The more preparation time you allot, the better prepared people will be for your meeting.

During the Meeting to Ensure Effective Meetings

  • Effective Meeting Facilitation
  • Use the Prep-work in the Meeting
  • Involve Each Participant in Actions
  • Create an Effective Meeting Follow-up Plan

During the meeting, make a follow-up plan with action items. Effective plans include:

  • What – the specific action item
  • Who is responsible
  • When – the due date of the action item

After the Meeting to Ensure Effective Meetings

  • Circulate Meeting Minutes
  • Effective Meeting Follow-up
  • Accountability for follow-up during the next meeting

Results are achievable and predictable from well-planned and implemented meetings.