If you’re a business owner or leader, the chances are you’re busy right now responding to the changes brought by Covid-19. You might have spent the last few months frustrated and furloughed, finding ways to save a business, or maybe you’ve been fortunate enough to operate in a market that’s been able to thrive during lockdown. Either way, running your business (or a key part of one) probably means you’re very busy!
The difference between ‘being busy’ and ‘being busy doing the right things’ can be the difference between success, unfulfilled dreams, or even worse…failure.
But being busy doing the right things is easier said than done, and many bright, hard-working people spend far too much time reacting to things in their business or job which might seem important, but aren’t driving things in the right direction.
It can be personally frustrating, but the impact of this kind of ‘busyness’ is much bigger than day–to-day irritation.
Right now, possibly as never before, proactively taking charge of your time and activities is essential to ensuring that your business performance stays on track and thrives in a sustainable way.
How Do you Come Across?
Think about how your actions are perceived by others around you; customers, suppliers, prospect clients, key business introducers, colleagues, bosses, friends, family.
What does a prospective client or supplier think of you and your business if you don’t put in a brief holding call or email to
acknowledge their latest correspondence to you? Do they feel respected and valued?
And what impact does that have on how much they respect the quality of your business and your personal values? Are they more, or less, inclined to work with you against the comparative supplier who builds rapport and manages expectations, always asking how they are with a smile, always responding with a 24-hour response rate?
We all have a few lapses.
We all have occasional times when we are late for a meeting, forget a meeting or don’t respond quickly to a call or email. We shrug and tell ourselves that “these things happen”. However, if they start to happen more often, the odd lapse can soon become a situation where you are regularly late and often noticeably distracted. Soon you are cancelling important meetings due to more urgent meetings and your time is filling up with tasks which you should say ‘no’ to, or even delegate/outsource.
Can you Be Busy and Successful?
On the other hand you might feel as though you’re a successful busy person? You are making money; your business or team is making a profit and growing faster than average.
Occasionally you manage a good life-work balance, but because you’re good at your business, you are more and more in demand. Then you start having to make difficult choices between declining new business and spreading yourself too thinly across family, friends, colleagues and your most loyal customers. The increasing revenue is nice, but your stress levels rise.
Even if you are busy due to growing success, it can still feel like you are making the wrong choices.
Five Steps to Managing ‘Busyness’
Here are my favourite five steps to help you manage ‘being busy’ in the best way for you, your business ambitions, and your personal life.
Don’t instantly drop what you are working on with every demand for your time and attention. Plan at the start of each day what you need to achieve. I find that factoring regular time in my diary to allow space for possible last minute, urgent requests really helps. Then work proactively on things which are important but not necessarily urgent.
2. Plan ahead, then do it again and again
This goes hand in hand with your daily planning. Rather than fire- fighting reactively, go back to your plan and see where you went wrong. Plan again. Make your plans specific with deliverables for all parties involved. Review your success against the plan and see where and why other targets were not met. It is important to be flexible, but having a structure that you can use to push forward is key.
3. Be honest in your communication and manage expectations thoroughly
Don’t agree to take on what you can’t do. Be realistic in telling your customers and contacts what you can do and how you will achieve it with realistic timeframes. Then deliver it to the expected standard without a time pressured panic.
4. Delegate, by surrounding yourself with a capable, winning and supportive team
Running your own business or a team can feel like you need to be the expert in all areas but you can never know every area in enough depth. Seek out and hire experts in the areas you need to grow your business.
If you’re not ready to commit to further full-time employee hire, with so many online resources available there has never been a better time to take things off your to-do list and get them outsourced. Whatever you need, there is a professional out there who can help you.
You can always ask your trusted contacts for recommendations when hiring or use their expertise, inviting them to sit in on an interview and ask more technical questions on your behalf.
LinkedIn is a great place to find recommendations. (NB There are also many online platforms, but beware of a ‘race to the bottom’ approach, price-wise. You usually find you get what you pay for.) Skilled freelancers can get the job done with flexibility, affordability and often in half the time that you could!
5. Say No
Saying ‘no’ sometimes feels that you’re risking missing out on current or future business. But thoughtful, deliberate choices about the work that you take on will build your business and solidify your reputation more sustainably long-term. Closing one door by saying ‘no’ can open another door leading to an opportunity that is more successful and profitable than the one you turned down.
I hope this has given you some useful ideas about how to get back in control and make being busy work for you and your business.
There’s never a better time than now to take the advice on board and start making some positive changes.
If you’d like to talk more, or are worried about how your level of ‘busyness’ is affecting you, do get in touch.