How to Prioritize Your Work When Everything Seems Important
Or maybe you’re frustrated because it’s taking you so long to see a difference in your business.
What a coincidence. It happens to me too.
And I think it’s an awful feeling. It distracts us and makes us feel like we’re spinning our wheels.
So let me take you through the steps I use now to help me zero-in on what I should be working on when I’m feeling like I’m drowning in work.
Step 1: Identify what deadlines you have. And if you don’t have any deadlines pick some because that’s likely part of the problem. When nothing has weight over anything else it sets you up to be paralyzed.
Most of us – especially former corporate or organizational employees – do better when we have deadlines because our whole professional life was built around deadlines.
Let the deadlines drive your priorities initially; but once you get the initial deadlines met be sure to reflect on whether you’re really doing things that are moving you and your business forward or are you caught doing what Tony Robbins says people do – letting the urgent get in the way of the important.
Step 2: Rank your projects. What will have the biggest impact on your business right now? If you have cash flow problems then you need to follow the money and get it flowing again. If you’ve got a few long term clients then you might want to focus on building a list of interested prospects who you can nurture and build a relationship with so if you have a long term client leave you’ll have people who may be ready to move forward to work with you.
What does your audience – think existing clients first — want most? I’m making changes to my book writing course based on what participants told me they’d like to see added.
If you’re unsure what you should be focusing on, examine your Profit Path (the flow of prospects who discover you, connect with you, get nurtured by you and make a decision to buy from you, and then who become fans). Look for areas where there are gaps and focus on that area.
When you’re in this place you become vulnerable to every bright shiny object that comes your way and promises you more clients, more revenue. It’s more likely that a better use of your time or money would be working on your processes, or working with someone to get clear about your next step. When you’re feeling compelled to buy something, stop and give yourself some time to reflect on whether this is the right move for you.
Step 3: Build relationships with current and past clients. This is critical. When I would do marketing funnel or sales process consulting, the client would always be focused on getting new clients. But the reality is that new client engagements will be projects that have the lowest percentage of profitability.
Profit really lies in retaining clients and in generating referrals from satisfied clients. So when prioritizing work be sure to include time for client relationship building.
According to Emmett C and Mark A. Murphy,“a commitment to customer experience results in up to 25% higher customer retention” which is obviously going to impact sales and revenue. So some of your time has to be spent building relationships with your existing client base and improving their outcomes. You want to have a significant level of clients become raving fans.
Step 4: Manage your calendar and start saying “no”. This is particularly critical when you’re feeling confused, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Building a business is an exercise in juggling. Time is the most important resource we have and it’s non-renewable. Once today is gone, it’s over. We know that. So while being open to new opportunities is important, it’s critical that we ruthlessly protect our calendar and that we manage our time well. That means blocking our time in our schedule to create and distribute content, work on new offerings, follow up with people we’ve met and cultivating relationships with them, including developing referral relationships.
Remember the story of the professor who brings in an empty jar, some rocks, sand, and a cup of coffee to his class? The only way to get everything in the jar is to put the big rocks in first, then the smaller pebbles, then the sand, and finally the coffee.
This story varies based on who tells it but the big lesson is that in order to achieve your biggest goals you need to focus on them first – so block out your calendar and schedule around your “big rocks”.
Stay on top of administrative tasks. With all due respect to Mike Michalowicz author of Profit First, you don’t get to pay yourself first, you need to pay the government first. So admin tasks might be a gigantic drag but they’re important and part of running a business like a business. Send invoices on time, keep your receipts and expenses organized, keep your projects organized and your email inbox cleaned out and organized. And if this isn’t in your “wheel house” as my friend Lisa Roberts would say, then you’ve got to create systems to help you stay on top of things and you need to hire someone to help you.
Once you get over the overwhelm then you want to do your best to stay focused on the RIGHT priorities.
Keep your vision and mission in focus. This might feel trite but it’s important for you to know where you’re going. I have mine written in a notebook with my big goals and I read them every day. It only takes a few minutes and keeps me focused on them. I also write affirmations in the same notebook and this helps me emotionally connect with my vision, mission, and goals.
Are you giving too much time away? I added up the time I was giving away to friends and colleagues and it averaged 8 hours a week. A whole day!! I decided I can’t keep doing that so I had my friends join a Facebook group for a new offering I’m creating. This helped me stay connected to them, share ideas, and it helps me capture their successes that relate to my advice so I can use those as case studies and testimonials.
Understand how long it takes you to get work done and stop over-booking yourself.
This was a huge issue for me. I had to really remind myself how long it takes to create a course or how long it takes me to write anything. Then I had to allow enough time in each week to get all that done.
Stop telling yourself you work best under pressure. You work best under pressure because you’ve conditioned yourself to constantly work under pressure. This is unhealthy and causes unneeded stress.
You’re in charge of your schedule so if your schedule is overwhelming then be the leader you are and start controlling it.
Keep focused. When you’re working, work. Log out of everything else except the tools you need to do the work. Keep a notepad by your side and when you feel an impulse to go off task, write down the thought that came into your head so you don’t lose the thought.
Take small steps but keep moving.
Schedule everything.I Just like “what gets measured gets improved’, “what gets scheduled gets done”.
I had to create an elaborate weekly calendar tool and a daily time management tool to manage my schedule and maximize my time.
Being a solopreneur and managing a growing business is hectic to say the least and it requires applying your best management and leadership strategies while staying focused on what’s really important to you, your clients, and your business.
If you’re ready to commit to achieving your goals, check out the Entrepreneur Achievers Club. It will help you zero in on your core priorities and stay focused so you’re getting more done with less stress.