If you are young enough you may be lucky not to have been sent to a ‘time management’ course. For those of us who have been sent to these types of courses there are some comments I would like to offer. Firstly, you will never be able to manage your time. Time management is a concept that began early in the last century but it became nearly impossible in the 1990’s and totally useless when we passed into the 21st century. There are still some purveyors of time management products and training who have not made the transition and you are best to avoid these. It is now time to ditch time- management.
I remember in the early nineties attending a time management workshop facilitated by the best trainer I have ever experienced in this area. This guy was amazing and knew how to adapt his tools and methodologies to any scenario as well as motivate the attendees to get back to work and put his ideas into practice. If I tried to apply his methodologies now I would be buried under my email inbox. Although there was some use of email most of us operated our businesses at the blazing speed of facsimile machines.
The perspective has changed from time management to productivity. The word ‘productivity’ is more accurate for the type of work most of us are asked to perform. When you start or purchase a business you are now in charge of your time and attention. Although this may sound obvious it is not and I can tell you that there is a large percentage of my clients who have struggled with the concept of time and attention in their own businesses. Many of the businesses that I work with are struggling due to a lack of focus and execution. I have introduced four concepts and I wish to clarify them;
- Time should need no clarification but it is your life, you have a limited amount of it and your utilisation of it will influence your success, health and the quantum of the goals that you achieve during your time on this planet.
- Attention is the parent of focus. Attention is the direction of ones energy (physical and mental) to big areas of your life such as family, work, business, spiritual development, physical health, education and financial management. There may be more in your life and these usually exist in some hierarchy for individuals; for instance one person may have their attention on family as the most important and others may have spiritual development. I often see people change the priority of their attention areas as they progress through stages of life.
- Focus is your mind’s laser beam pointed at a task or goal. The focus is usually a short or medium term state that involves executing an activity to achieve an outcome. For example an attention area can be your family and your focus is to take the family on a trip to Japan. Your focus may be to purchase a business in twelve months or start a business from a home office and transition out of your job in 6 months.
- Execution is the activity that leads you to cross out items on your task list, feel the buzz and move on to the next one towards your ultimate goals. For instance when you are focused on a family trip to Japan and you have saved money to cover the airfares you experience the buzz of execution. Your execution may be only a small step to something much bigger but it is progress and progress supports momentum.
To be build a sustainable successful business you need to master all four of these concepts and align these with your business strategy. I mentioned earlier that many businesses I have worked with have struggled due to a lack of focus and execution. There are some interesting phenomenon is this experience that I want to share with you in the hopes you can introspect enough to determine if you may be prone to these behaviours and if so prevent them harming your business.
The first example is the business owner who is a master of her systems and processes. This person has a well written business plan, a business strategy, systems established and processes mapped to the business model. Everything is in its place and organised. This may sound like an ideal situation yet the business goes nowhere. This business owner builds the structure but does not execute on any of the activities that drive a business like marketing and sales. This business owner does not have a monthly, weekly or daily plan to measure their activity and achieve goals. It is analogous to developing the greatest race car but not having a person to drive the car competitively.
On the other extreme is the business owner who has her foot planted firmly on the accelerator but no ‘hands on the wheel.’ I have worked with businesses who have scaled a mountain of revenue growth and suddenly descend to insolvency in a chaotic nose-dive propelled by frenetic unfocused activity. This type of business owner does not build a sustainable business and their only savior is bringing in an employee or partner who can grab the reigns and build systems and process aligned with time, attention, focus and execution to achieve outcomes.