The Benefits of Working for Your Business, Not Just in Your Business

Why working on what's important is more beneficial for your business than working only on what's urgent.

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By Paula Immo

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Is your business run by concentrating solely on what's most urgent at the moment? Or the latest fire that needs to be put out? Are the business development and growth plans waiting for less busy times before you can get to them?

When your desk is filled with one utterly important matter after another, the attention usually goes to the most urgent one. That's the most logical way of going forward, right? Anticipation is only possible in an ideal world, right? No. It may seem so, but don't fall into that trap. With such a mantra, you'll only be running from fire to fire. Not exactly a recipe for a sustainably successful business.

One thing my most successful clients have in common is that they take time to work on the important things when they're not yet urgent. Because of this, they're able to see and consider various options and are willing to receive new information in order to make informed decisions and take measured action. They're ultimately practicing critical thinking, the top skill the World Economic Forum believes will need to grow significantly by 2025.

Read More: 15 Time Management Tips for Achieving Your Goals

WEF defines critical thinking as the ability to identify, analyze and evaluate situations, ideas and information in order to formulate responses to problems. Yet critical thinking is at its worst when we're in a hurry and in the constant mode of putting out the biggest fires. That's when we disregard and block the entry of new information in an attempt to cope with the overwhelming busyness. And that's when we're in high danger of making decisions to survive in the short term. Too often, such decisions turn out to be less beneficial in the long-term.

Therefore, to run a sustainably successful business, and to employ critical thinking, you need to work for your business, not just in your business. Meaning that you take time to plan ahead and act on those plans regularly, instead of just working fully hands-on with the current situation. This is valid not only for the businesses, but also and especially for the key individuals within the businesses. Stop saying "Oh, this is so important, but we don't have time now," and "Maybe later," and "We can't even think of another thing while working on this other project." Your business will thank you later. Why?

First, when you have regular spots in your calendar to work on what's important (not just urgent), there will be fewer urgent matters on your table demanding immediate attention later. This basic time management skill is the essence of working for your business. In practice, it's best if you reserve regular spots for this purpose at a time you feel most productive. According to a study published by Nature Communications, 48.4% of women identify as morning people, while only 39.7% of men do the same. So, if you're not most productive first in the morning, try lunchtime or right before you're done for the day. Most importantly, pick the time that suits your way of operating the best, and adjust later if needed.

Read More: Bethenny Frankel's Success Starts With Time Management

Second, working regularly for your business enables you to divide the projects at hand into bite-sized chunks (because you only have a limited time reserved in your calendar). By taking things forward bit-by-bit like this, you're able to proceed with ease in the long run. Thus, the anticipation and preparations also help you balance the work-related stress load over time. According to HSE 2021 annual statistics, in Great Britain the main work factors cited by respondents as causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility. It furthermore states that in 2020 and 2021, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases.

Thirdly, when we're not constantly overwhelmed, it's much easier to concentrate on the vital things. As Peter Drucker says, effective executives — and shall I add business owners — concentrate on what's important. When we do so, we have bandwidth to receive new information and practice curiosity not only when problems occur, but also when potential opportunities show up. This enables us to employ critical thinking rather than jumping into quick assumptions. Critical thinking, then, allows more considered decision-making by taking into consideration a wider perspective, by questioning the obvious and by constructively examining the related ways of operating, attitudes and values.

With increased need for innovation, entrepreneurs who only work in their business end up protecting the end-results and focus on the outside conditions, which are hard to control. These businesses have much to lose. The most successful entrepreneurs work relentlessly for their business, and thus, focus most on the process of creation. This process is what's worth savoring, as it's the most valuable asset. These businesses have much to gain.

Read More: 12 Time Management Mistakes That Set You Up for Failure

Paula Immo

Success Coach, Happiness Evangelist

Paula Immo is a success coach based in Oulu, Finland. She coaches award-winning entrepreneurs, experts and business leaders in finding their unique way of succeeding and helps firms cultivate happiness as competitive advantage. She’s known for her visionary and proven approach on success.

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