As a startup business, it is likely that you have a very small team. In many cases, that team consists of only one person, you.
This means marketing, accounting, finance, internet marketing, sales, operations, purchasing, HR and web maintenance is all done by just two hands. I am sure you have heard people saying the following:
- Spend most of your time working on your business, not in your business
- Focus your energy doing the work that matters, not on doing the work that doesn’t matter, i.e. understand and follow the 80:20 rule or the Pareto principle.
Now the above bullet points are very important to bear in mind, however when you’re the captain, crew-member, chef and sweeper, it can be difficult to adhere to these lofty ideals. Usually this is because start-ups tend to be underfunded.
You’ll come across people who will arrogantly tell you that you shouldn’t start a business until you are funded well enough to be able to do the right things, but I would argue that is better to get going when your head is in the right place and as long as that remains the case, other things will fall into place.
Starting up a business is a juggling act. You will focus on different things on different days. At the end of each day you will assess your day and on one day, you’ll love that you were productive and concentrated on the right things, and on others you’ll hate yourself for wasting time on admin tasks and not giving time to more strategic activities. This is the life of a fledgling startup entrepreneur. Accept that it happens to everyone but also accept that continuing like this isn’t an option. You need to focus more.
If cashflow and funds in the bank mean you cannot outsource the non-critical activities to specialists in those areas, fine. But list out the activities on a spreadsheet or piece of paper and then start divying up those items by days of the week in which you’ll be doing them. This creates a focus for each day. You’ll move things around to suit your working style but in the end, you’ll have a list with most of the stuff that needs to be done, strategic, admin and everything in between. Look down this list – what can you actually disregard as its a nice-to-have? Then disregard it or add it to a nice-to-have list for the future. Each day’s to-do’s should only have a maximum of 4-5 items on it, otherwise you are over-stretching yourself, and things are unlikely to move in the right direction.
Listing items out for each day creates focus and discipline. Well actually the discipline part comes from actioning that list day to day. Don’t be hard on yourself if all items on that day’s list are not done – this will happen from time to time. But measure yourself and your productivity based on how many of those things you get done each day. If its less than 70%, you need to take a long, hard look at your list and your motivation and something needs to change. If you’re doing well above 70% every week, treat yourself.
Once you have been doing this for a few weeks, write back here to comment on how you got on or what bespoke tweaks you introduced to help you.