Q.I own a small business and often feel overwhelmed by all of the work. i.e., website development/maintenance, accounting, product development, sales, social media, etc. Do you have any tips of how to stay on top of all of the work?
A. We can tell you from personal experience, successful “solopreneurs” work hard, very hard. We are sure that you know this and nothing we say will change this fact. However, the six tips below will help you sort through the endless set of tasks on your plate.
· Prioritize – You aren’t going to get everything done. Accept it. There will always be more work than you have time to complete. Things that are both urgent and important must rise to the top of the To Do list. Urgent tasks need to be done, but make time for items that are important but less urgent. Don’t let the urgent overtake the important. Tasks that are neither urgent nor important should migrate to the bottom of the To Do list, even if you enjoy doing them. Ensure that the tasks left undone are the least important.
· Limit – Do some tasks in limited quantities. The law of diminishing returns says that doing a certain task for an hour may be a good investment, but spending five hours doing the same task may be time wasted. We have a colleague who each day spends one hour, and only one hour, on social networking to promote his business. Social networking can be a time sink. He’s religious about not getting sucked in
· Avoid Perfectionism – We’re not suggesting that mediocrity is acceptable. However, continuing to work on something long after the incremental effort stopped delivering value is not beneficial. Further, it sucks up your time, keeping you from doing other tasks that do create value. Polly says, “Great work is what we do for our customers. Perfectionism is what we do for ourselves.”
· Exercise Discipline – The three items above require discipline. This is particularly true when it means limiting time spent doing things you like to do. As an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to spend time doing things you enjoy at the expense of mission critical tasks.
· Outsource – Depending on your skill set, many tasks should be outsourced. For example, we find that if our computer network is on the fritz, it’s much more cost effective to call a tech than to attempt the fix ourselves. He does in 30 minutes what would take us three days (optimistically) and we can spend that time generating revenue.
· Sprint – If you will be the only employee for years, this won’t work. You’ll need to use the tips above to find a sustainable pace. However, you may be able to sprint for a short period of time (say a few months) working at an unsustainable pace to get your business over the hump. This can be successful, if it allows your business to generate enough revenue so that you can take on employees. Then you can delegate work to others and throttle back to a sustainable pace.
Starting a small business is a lot of work, but following the tips outlined above can help you manage the workload.