Every entrepreneur knows what it feels like to put in a 12-hour day and come home physically and mentally exhausted. Many brag about how many hours they put in and convince themselves that logging hours is the goal. But if you put in 60 hours a week, are you being productive or are you just “busy”?
It’s time we stopped drinking the busy Kool-Aid and started being more strategic with our time and decisions.
Fixing the ‘Busyness’ Problem
Using your time strategically and productively means maximizing your output per unit of input. Being busy doesn’t work, because most people produce 80 percent of their results in 20 percent of their time.
Related: 10 Time Management Tips That Work
By documenting and analyzing your time, you can actually see what makes up your 20 percent and systematically eliminate the rest. By applying this 80-20 rule, you can double or triple your productivity and accomplish more in 40 hours than you previously accomplished in 60.
Eliminating your unproductive time isn’t easy, but as an entrepreneur with limited resources, maximizing your time is essential for survival.
Obstacles to strategic thinking
While being more productive sounds nice, as entrepreneurs, there are all kinds of problems and opportunities that turn into “80 percent time" and get in the way of strategic thinking.
- Too many opportunities. Having options seems great but too many options can be a problem. When success brings a lot of opportunities and you feel compelled to seize them all, you spread your efforts too thin. Suddenly, you’re reacting instead of acting with deliberate, strategic focus.
- Too many resources. People always complain about a lack of resources, but in some ways, it’s better than having too many. When resources are abundant, people solve problems by throwing money at them. Constraint, on the other hand, breeds strategic thinking and creative solutions.
- Herd mentality. If everyone’s doing something one way, there’s usually a unique strategy found in doing the exact opposite. It’s uncomfortable and counterintuitive to break away from the herd, but you rarely find greatness within your comfort zone.
How you can work more strategically and efficiently
Entrepreneurs are hardwired to identify and seize opportunities, meaning we’re predisposed to fall into one of the traps above that hamper strategic thinking. To get past this, you must understand that strategic action emerges from a simple two-step process: reflection and action. First, you should take stock of your resources, then craft a plan that leverages your assets into a competitive advantage.
Here is how to put this process in action:
- Don’t let tasks push you around. If you let things like email drive your daily routine, you’re letting someone else prioritize for you. Instead, decide for yourself when and how you accomplish tasks.
- Make decisions with an active mind. Understand all of your options and think things through before jumping on a new opportunity. Evaluate every possible outcome. Eventually, your predictions will become more accurate, enabling you to make smarter choices.
- Align motivations that are out of sync. Employers want to increase productivity per dollar spent on labor, while employees want to increase their income, job satisfaction and quality of life. For productivity to increase, you need to align those motivations by creating happy, highly productive employees who will run through walls for you.
It’s time to stop measuring productivity in hours and start measuring what actually matters: production. By focusing on your ultra-effective 20 percent and letting strategy -- rather than mania -- drive your decisions, you’ll run your business more effectively without letting it run you into the ground.