The demands of running your own business can have you so busy doing things that you don’t see what needs to be done.
As a 14-year entrepreneur, I know from personal experience how many demands compete for your attention when you’re running a business. Especially during the startup phase, you’re often serving as the chief executive and as operating, financial, administrative, human resources and marketing officers, all rolled into one.
The challenge is to keep your strategic head above water when dealing with all the tactical things that cry out for your attention every day. If you’re not careful, you can easily devote all your time and attention on the small stuff that hits your screen throughout the day and never turn to the ideas that can really grow the business.
It’s vital for you to create the space to think throughout the day and week. Here are three simple steps to take right away to create space to think.
1. Start your day offline.
Unless you want to start your day just reacting to stuff for an indeterminate amount of time, stop checking your email the first thing in the morning. Before you jump online, take 15 minutes to review your calendar and your to-do list. Develop no more than three priorities that, if accomplished during the day, would represent strategic wins.
2. Check email only on a schedule.
Research from the University of California, Irvine shows that professionals are interrupted on average every 11 minutes and switch screens every 90 seconds. Once they’re interrupted, it typically takes them 23 minutes to get back on task. Clearly, the math is not working in their favor.
Change the odds by setting regular times to check email throughout the day, perhaps midmorning and midafternoon and ignore it the rest of the day. That will give you time to focus on your priorities instead of reacting all day to other people’s priorities.
3. Wind up and wind down.
Schedule your week so you have time to ramp up to peak performance and then ramp down from that. When possible, set aside Monday mornings to clarify your strategic priorities for the week and prep for critical meetings and conversations. From Monday afternoon through Friday morning, fire on all cylinders. Around lunchtime on Friday, start ramping down by stepping away from meetings and calls to review what happened during the week, tie up loose ends and set the table for next week.
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