As business owners, one of the things we struggle with is time. No small business owners have enough time. It’s the biggest complaint I hear in general. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard it over and over also. We need more time.
Yet it remains the case that all the most productive and effective human beings all have the same amount of time as you or I. So what gives?
Wearing blinders is crucial
Blinders keep you focused on what’s straight ahead. They’re restrictive. Not always comfortable. But they allow you to fully see what’s most important. Blinders are not just for race horses. Entrepreneurs have their own version of this also.
One of the biggest problems we face as uber-busy entrepreneurs is knowing where to focus our energy. Where will it be best spent? The more effective you are, the better you are at filtering what’s non-essential, and the better you are at focusing on what’s straight ahead. Focus on the task at hand, until it’s complete. That type of focus is non-negotiable.
If you respond to the various fires and the millions of little distractions that present themselves throughout your day, you’re not wearing blinders. You’re not putting any distance between yourself and the minutia. Quite simply, you can’t lead effectively from that vantage point. If you’re just as caught up in the whirlwind of details as your team is, how can you provide any perspective? Wearing blinders is crucial. It’s what allows you to make those important decisions. It’s what allows you to know which direction you need to go.
Here’s a bombshell for you: In order to make better decisions, you often need LESS information, not more. You need to exercise more leadership and follow your convictions. You don’t need more information. Depending on “taking in all the information and weighing the pros and cons” is an exercise in procrastination. Sometimes what’s needed is to make the decision and move on.
What’s actually happening
Blinders don’t just block out distractions, they also change your mindset. As business owners, we often pride ourselves for having a different mindset than an employee. We know we look at things differently than an employee-minded person. Ok.
But one area we still struggle with (myself…very much included) is that we still run our day by the clock. Just like an employee.
Example: I need to have this blog post done by 11AM, then I need to run to an appointment and get there by 11:30. By noon, I need to be out of there so I can get lunch with my business partner and then I have several tasks to complete before 6PM when I have a dinner date with my top sales people. See? All by the clock. No focus at all. It’s entirely time-oriented. It might be efficient, but this is a great example of the day running me, instead of me running the day. And guess what…at some point I’m gonna run out of time. The entire issue of never having enough time remains.
What to do?
Put on some blinders…systems that block out distractions. Tools, filters and an approach to business that allows you to maintain a bird’s eye view of your business. Without that, we remain a slave to the clock. Here are a few examples of steps I’ve taken. I’m sure you can think of others also:
- I rarely if ever take an appointment before 11AM. This allows me to have an entire morning where I can workout, plan the day, do some blogging or whatever needs to be done, totally distraction-free.
- I check email occasionally at 11AM and again at 4PM. As much as possible, I stick to just 4PM. Once per day. This allows me to ensure everyone hears back from me the same day, and it completely removes the incessant distraction of email. I used to check email 30-40 times per day, easily. Just imagine how much time and headspace that consumes. If you want more peace in your life, I guarantee this one step alone can make a huge difference.
- I will take an in-person meeting on occasion. Maybe once per month. As a rule, I don’t meet in person unless you’re on my team. And I solve every issue possible with email. When email absolutely cannot suffice, a conference call can be scheduled, enabling everyone involved to save travel time and all the logistics involved with a face-to-face meeting. It may sound like picking a place to meet and having a lunch date is not that big a deal, but when you look at it objectively, a single lunch date sucks up an enormous amount of time. It takes more time to schedule, introduces travel time, parking, waiting for a seat at the restaurant, ordering food, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I meet with my team and am a big believer in meeting in person. But it’s crucial to realize how much of an investment it is to meet in person. I get asked to meet in person almost daily. Often several times per day. Keeping your blinders in place and deflecting lunch date requests tactfully enables you to keep your focus on what’s most important.
- I hire people. I used to honestly think I couldn’t afford to do that. Then what I realized is that business owners doing three times the sales as me still feel that way. We never want to just drop a load of cash we worked so hard to earn. Yet the truth remains, you NEED others to handle details for you. Candidly, I’ve come to believe that if you’re not delegating most of the tasks that need to be done every day to others, you’re not really running a business. You have the opportunity to do so, but as long as you try to do everything and manage all the noise and minutia yourself, you’re working a job. Usually a pretty crappy one.
These are just a few examples of the “blinders” I have in place that allow me to focus on the task at hand. I earnestly think the entrepreneur mindset includes the idea that building a business is not something you do on the clock. It’s a task-oriented endeavor. You focus on a task til it’s complete. And you work on tasks that are integral to growing your operation.
Two important questions:
- If it’s not going to grow your business, why are you spending time on it at all?
- If it’s simply a task that needs to be done today, why isn’t someone on your team already on top of it for you?
Important questions in my book. Would love to hear your thoughts!