The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
Avoid Non-Productive Burnout Hours
It’s counterintuitive but true that the harder you work, the less productive you are. We tell ourselves stories about what is essential, what we need to do right this minute, how our business will collapse if this report doesn’t go to the client tonight. But stress leads to mistakes and do-overs; it can also mean you sit staring at a blank page because you are panicked and don’t know where to begin. Writer’s block is a real thing.
In 2022, try to become aware of your poor work habits. Those things that you do that are burning you out, upsetting your employees, worrying your family and your doctor. Overwork affects your mental and physical health, but how much of this “work” is so vitally important that it can’t wait until tomorrow? Too often, small business owners put too much pressure on themselves to excel, to succeed. Working 65-hours a week is not the answer – at least not in the long term. It’s easy, almost addictive, to believe that you have to do x, y, and z, or your company will fall apart.
We give ourselves so many reasons for starting early and leaving late. In some cases, our parents or past bosses have said stuff like, “You only get out of life what you put in,” and “Hard work never killed anyone.” Unfortunately, it can kill you!
If you have a habit of starting early and leaving late every day, take a step back and ask yourself how much is necessary and how much is self-inflicted? Analyze whether all those extra hours are genuinely effective in terms of productivity.
Consider changing your work habits. Imagine advising one of your team, or a family member, who is working too hard and burning themselves out. What would you tell them? From your perspective, you’d probably have a better idea of how many of the hours they were putting in were productive. Good bosses worldwide tell their best employees to go home and pick it up in the morning. Be a good boss to yourself.
Set start and finish hours and stick to them
Set yourself a drop-dead time to finish each day. Physically set a reminder to pop up on all your devices (smartphone, tablet, computer) 20-minutes before that time. This first “ping” alerts you that you should be wrapping things up. At your set “switch off” time, have another alert pop up with a message to yourself that says something like, “Marilyn, remember your commitment to limit your hours? How vital is it that you continue what you are doing this evening? What’s the worst that will happen if you leave it until tomorrow morning? Is it more important than your health, family, or even the business?”
Have this appear every evening until the message is ingrained in your psyche and you no longer need it. Continually question whether what you are doing is more important than your health and wellbeing.
Often, we overinflate the importance of what we are doing and fail to realize that there is often a way around “urgent” challenges like deadlines. The further out a deadline, the easier it is to move. If you have a deadline on a project a few weeks out, and you have a sense that you’ll have to work long hours to meet it, ask for an extension; you’ll be surprised how often they can be adjusted. Usually, deadlines only become a significant issue when we are about to blow through them. If a client is intransigent, pass back some of the responsibility to them by asking a bunch of questions that require answering before you can complete the project. That little ploy will often buy you a little time. Or bring in some outside help to take the pressure off yourself.
Make a list of your most pressing priorities and create a timeline for each. Take note of your circadian rhythm and schedule high-priority work for when your internal clock is at its most efficient. Figuring out your most productive time of the day and using it wisely could mean finishing on time every day.
Decide which activities are crucial to the success of your business and which are housekeeping. Ensure that it’s not housekeeping duties that are keeping you away from your family, the gym, or whatever you like to do after work.
If, like a shooting star, you burn out in 2022, you won’t be helping your business, investors, customers, family, friends, and least of all yourself.
How to Gauge Businesses Success in 2022
By the time you read this, the holiday season will be behind us, and you may be entering the new year with optimistic hopes and dreams for your business. On the other hand, as COVID continues to spark out new variants, and with them vast amounts of uncertainty, you may be looking ahead with despair and suffering nightmares. Perspective is everything. If you plan to enter 2022, expecting it to be a banner year, you will set yourself up for disappointment. It may be wiser to take a step back and consider what success might look like to you. Imagine the date is December 31, 2022, and you are reviewing the state of your business; what would a successful year look like to you? Write down your thoughts and add some specifics around how you measured success. Once you’ve done that, file the document somewhere you will be able to find it at the end of the year. One last thing, add a calendar entry to remind you to check the document in December.
Thinking about quantifying what a good year would look like under the current circumstances, how do you currently measure success in your business? Perhaps it’s all about a healthy bottom line, or maybe it’s a lot less ambitious, and success to you means surviving month to month. This year, you will need guidelines to help you stay on track – something to measure. Here are a few ways we as business owners can track how well we are doing.
Sales Revenue – Zig Zieglar, the sales guru, once said that there is only one activity in a business that contributes to profit, and that is selling; everything else contributes to cost. His quip has been dissected nine ways to Sunday, and it certainly has holes in its logic, but the sentiment stands up well. An excellent way to measure whether your business is doing well is that sales are coming in regularly. Establishing sales targets is a good idea and is easily measured. If success looks like selling 100,000 widgets, then put that into your “What success looks like” document.
Net Profit – At the end of the day, it’s all about bringing in more revenue than you spend. What figure would you regard as a success? Be careful; this could depend on what capital expenditures you might need in 2023. If you need to invest in new equipment or move premises, the figure will be higher than if you can survive without increasing your operating costs.
Cash Flow – One of the most critical financing considerations is having enough cash at any given moment in time to pay your bills. There have been plenty of examples of companies making a profit who didn’t have enough available cash to survive long enough to enjoy their “success.” Is success in 2022 reliant on convincing your bank to increase your line of credit? If so, get that negotiation started immediately.
Gross Profit – This ties back into sales. You need enough revenue to offset all costs and leave a profit. A percentage increase over 2021 could constitute success, but beware that even achieving your goal could leave you short if profits fall.
New Customers or Clients – This can be another measure of success. One word of caution here. Ensure that any new clients are profitable. Your success goal could be 20 new clients, but if they end up being only marginally profitable, this could be misleading. Perhaps a better goal would be to attract more profitable customers.
Happy Customers – If your Amazon, Google, and Yelp star ratings are averaging 3.5, then a success goal could be to increase them all to 4.5. The better your ratings, the more likely you will increase sales revenue. What will your strategy be to ensure this happens?
There are many ways to become more successful, but first, you need to know what that success looks like in real-time. In these first few days of the new year, think about how you will measure your success this year. Commit your vision to paper and keep it somewhere secure. Now, look at all the ways you measure success and strategize ways to achieve those goals.
COVID-19 is a wild card; make it the only one.
Coach's Corner - What Are Your Plans for 2022?
“Dreams don’t work unless you take action. The surest way to make your dreams come true is to live them.”
― Roy T. Bennett
2022 has arrived, and I imagine, as you look back on 2021, you have faced many challenges in both your professional and personal lives. During periods of dramatic change, it can be challenging to make plans for the future, but it is critical nevertheless.
The beginning of a new year is an excellent time to begin outlining your vision for the year, to develop strategies that will help you achieve your goals, and to assist you in following through with your action plans.
An excellent place to start is to ask yourself three questions that will help clarify your vision.
- What do you intend to accomplish over the next few months or for the year?
- What will success look like to you?
- How will you know that when you have reached your goal?
Once you have defined your vision and outlined your end goals, you need to develop some strategies. Strategies set your direction and help you create a game plan. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get started.
- How will you go about meeting your objectives and realizing your goals?
- What are the things that will make a difference in helping you reach those goals?
- What are some of the milestones you’ll need along the way?
- What do you need to do to keep yourself and your team on track?
“People are least interested in your plans and strategies, they are interested in results.”
― Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words
Unless you take action, objectives and strategies are irrelevant. At this point, you need to list what steps you will take to support the process you’ve outlined, which will lead you towards your end goal. The actions you take need to be clear and relate to at least one of your strategies. It is crucial to take action daily or weekly and make it a habit—one final set of questions to ask yourself.
- What are your next steps?
- What might get in your way?
- What is the most important thing you need to be doing?
- How do you ensure that you act on your strategies and goals regularly?
“When you take action on your goals, gorgeous avenues get lined up for you.”
― Hiral Nagda
Paul Abra, Motivated Coaching