How would you like to start doing less?

photo by padraic woods

One of the common themes I’m getting from business owners is that they are doing too much.  A major reason for their stress is that they’ve got too many balls in the air and they are constantly juggling priorities, commitments to themselves and other people and things they’d like to be doing.

As the business owner, you ultimately have responsibility for the overall success of your business, so it makes sense that you’ve got a lot of stuff going on, but the reality is that model isn’t sustainable in the long run and it may very well be causing you a lot of problems in the short run as well.

Considering all of that, what if you were to start doing less?

You might be thinking: “How could I do less – we’re not hitting our goals now?”

There’s a lot of great reasons why business owners are doing so many things:

  1. They don’t have anyone they can really trust to hand things off to
  2. They don’t know how to hand anything off (if you want a job done right…)
  3. There’s just too much to do and it’s all important
  4. Revenue or profits are falling short, so they need to do more, more of the same and more different things

All of these are valid reasons and certainly contribute to feeling overwhelmed, but let’s come back to the original question.

What if you were to start doing less?

I’m not talking about suddenly deciding to slack off and start working a 40 hour work week, I’m talking about strategically choosing to focus your best efforts on the things that really matter to your company’s success.

I’m also not just talking about your individual workload, I’m talking about the efforts of your business and everyone in your business as well (of course if there’s just you in the business, then I am talking about just your workload…).  😉

The first thing you have to recognize and accept is that multitasking doesn’t work.

Busting the Myth of Multitasking

I found several great resources online, including Dave Crenshaw’s website (and book) entitled The Myth of Multitasking, even without reading the book (which looks good), just watching Dave’s opening video on his website will give you a lot of background on why multitasking doesn’t work.  On an unrelated note, that video is also a great example of marketing – it shows transparency (letting people get to know you) and credibility (being interviewed by major media and presenting to large groups) and gives you a great sense of what he’s all about, all in a 4 minute segment.

If you’re looking for some additional thoughts – here’s a great podcast from Merlin Mann (founder of 43 Folders – a productivity blog) on the myth of multitasking and finally another great blog post from Passionate called Your brain on multitasking – they cover several other resources there as well.

So we’re clear that multitasking doesn’t work for an individual,  it also doesn’t work for a business.  By trying to do to many things at once as a company, it’s almost certain that you will not meet your goals and it’s highly likely that you won’t get anything on the list done.  However I would have to say that most businesses I run into fall into this particular trap of trying to do too much all at once.

How do you get out of this trap?

Get clear on your most important goals

As part of your ongoing planning and strategy processes…(you do have a regular process in place to do long and short term planning right?  If not, talk to a coach), it’s important that you carve out or prioritize those projects that are the most important things to get done.

If you’re like most business owners, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to come up with a list of 20 big things that you could be doing for your business – revamp your website, learn about this ‘social media’ thing, hire a new employee, document what everyone is supposed to be doing…the list can go on and on.

The key is to bring your top priorities, no more than 3 to 5 of them and limit your efforts to only those key priorities.  Although you want to give some time to figuring out what your absolute top priorities are, it’s more important to have a clear list than to have the perfect list.  Pick 3 to 5 things that feel like they’re important and go with those.  You can always revisit them next quarter when you go through this process again.

Not only will this narrowing down of your focus help you to get stuff done, from a leadership perspective, it’s the only way to get everyone else on board.  Check out this great post from a fellow PBCA coach in Cleveland – Adam Sonnhalter on How to Motivate People.  He makes a lot of great points, but I really like his powerful example of focusing the Rotary group that he’s president of:

In Rotary, I have three goals for our club this year: i)kangaroos, ii) 50, and iii)26,000. One of the interesting things about kangaroos is they can only move forward. I want our members to continue to move forward and not relive the past so much. 50 is our goal for number of total members by the end of my term. And 26,000 is the number of children under the age of 5 who die each day (that’s right, it’s every DAY, not week, month or year) from preventable causes. We’d like to make a significant dent in that number.

If that doesn’t get you focused and motivated, then there’s something wrong with you!

What are the 3 or 4 most important things you and your business should be working on right now?  What are you doing to move them forward?  Who owns the responsibilities for making them happen?  That’s the kind of laser focus you need to get things done and make progress.

Share what you’re working on these days or your thoughts on how much stuff you’ve got to do – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

9 thoughts on “How would you like to start doing less?”

  1. Jerry Smith says:

    Hi Shawn
    A good tool to think about this is the “saying yes/saying no” exercise. When you have a list of priorities, examine each one and write down: By saying “yes” to this activity, what will I have to say No to – in other words, what sacrifice will I make. This applies to both business and personal life. It might be, for example, by deciding to work late on your blog, you are saying no to dinner with your partner. That may be a sacrifice you CHOSE to make once (or more than once) but it gives you conscious choices and that’s important!

  2. Your insights are very helpful! During the past few months, I’ve succumbed to the effects of multitasking, which leads to unrest and a growing Task List.

    Thanks for the timely reminder of the futility of try to accomplish too much. A light shown through a prism can light a fire due to its intense focus!

  3. Jerry – if you’re implying I’m spending too much time on my blog…you just might be right! 😉 Thanks for the comment and that’s a great point / idea as a process to trade off your activities.

    Dana – thanks for the comment and thanks for visiting!


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