Have you ever found yourself emptying the trash at the end of the day? What about printing shipping labels, cleaning dishes, packing boxes, entering receipts or customer data, or loading trucks? (Or maybe all of these things?) And all this is on top of the work you do selling, responding to customers, completing that design, or hiring a new employee.
When I first talk with a business owner about working On their business, I often hear their frustration that they can’t free themselves up to do this strategic work. They feel like they're trapped working In it, and can’t stop doing it long enough to work On it. If you've taken our Masterclass, you learned that strategic work is where you are defining results, while tactical work is about producing results. The examples listed above all fall into that tactical work.
What if I could show you some ways to work On it (strategic work, defining results), while you are in the process of working In it (tactical work, producing results)?
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Get More Than Just ‘Getting It Done’
The key lies in finding smart strategies to extract more value from the task than just getting the task done. The idea is that you rethink the way you do technical work so that it results in longer-term benefits. These benefits can be as simple as getting some of your time back by training someone else, or as far-reaching as discovering a new product, a better way to organize, or identifying an important aspect of your long-term vision.
Here are some examples for you to try:
- Document your system while you're performing the task. Imagine you're explaining to someone else exactly how you want the task to be done. Write or type up the steps as you go. Don’t forget your camera. Take pictures for each step, if that helps. Sometimes, a single photo is all you need (e.g. "Set the table like this!") Now you have a system that can be shared with (and hopefully done by) someone other than you.
- Put your hands in your pockets. Instead of doing the task yourself, talk an employee through the task. Now the task is done and you've trained an employee. You can also reverse this and do the task while your employee writes up the steps (best if a mistake would be costly). Either way, you now have a document that your employee can follow or use to train someone else.
- Measure, measure, measure. There are many numbers that are very helpful to know as you are designing your perfect business. What can you count while you're busy working in it? How many customers call or walk through the door each day? What percentage of them buy? How long does a task take you to complete? How many times do you do a certain task? How often do you get interrupted, and by whom? Capturing these numbers opens your eyes to many aspects of your business such as when you are most profitable, where you can gain efficiency, and ways to organize your staff.
- Maintain a “parking lot” for ideas. Great ideas that live only with one person tend to die unimplemented. Use a board, wall, or just put up a blank sheet of paper where you and your employees can add ideas as you go through the day. You can choose to limit the list to a particular process or topic. One list I really like is a list of activities that don’t have a specific owner. Every time someone does something they don’t think is their responsibility, it goes on the list. The idea board also helps anyone involved in a task to contribute to optimizing how it’s done, as they observe or discover their own improvements.
- Debrief your day. Take five minutes at the end of each day and write down the things that went just the way you wanted them to and the things that went badly. These lists can help you with everything from identifying simple systems to seeing what your real vision is and identifying the Way We Do It Here. (Sometimes discovering the Way We Never, EVER Want to Do It Here Ever Again is even more valuable!)
These strategies will help you begin to view your day-to-day effort from the perspective of The Entrepreneur and you’ll draw more value from your tactical work. They're a great way to start working on your business. As you gain momentum in this area, I hope you're inspired to find the time you really need to do the higher-level visionary work that will give your business a solid foundation. Trust me, it’s worth it! (Plus, you won’t be emptying the trash anymore.)