It is a universal principle that successful CEOs tend to dream big. This can sometimes lead to a long to-do list. There is NOTHING wrong with setting lofty goals; but you must have the right systems, processes, and resources to accomplish your business objectives. We live in an “instant” society, and it’s easy to get frustrated when your big goals aren’t achieved in a matter of a few months.
It’s normal to spend months without seeing any concrete progress on your goals. This can create significant internal pressure, frustration, or even overwhelm. It’s important to have strategies to help yourself out of overwhelm. After all, business is often about troubleshooting multiple problems concurrently. Here are 3 tips that can help you move out of chaos and into progress.
Pick The Most Broken Thing In Your Business
As your business scales, some of the key things you’ll focus on could be sales; marketing; ongoing service delivery and improvement; enhancing customer support and engagement; recruiting, onboarding, and managing employees; offering cybersecurity; and the list goes on.
If you try to work on all the things today, then (at best) each area might progress a little bit. But at the end of a quarter, you have made almost no measurable improvement – and you haven’t come any closer to achieving your goals. It’s critical that you limit your focus to a single item in your business. And focus on that for an entire quarter.
Call it a quarterly rock, quarterly initiative, a focus area, a priority, or simply a key project. The goal is to locate the most broken system or process inside of your business, and spend time every week (or even every day) on this one part of your business.
Once you locate this gap in your business, you’ll have an entire quarter to research possible fixes, talk to gurus, survey your peer group or team, and then execute on a possible solution. Solving a problem inside of 12 weeks is very possible – especially when you are solely focused on a single problem (and not spreading yourself thin trying to solve all the problems of the universe.) All of your time, effort, energy, and attention will address this single broken part of your business, and you’ll see significant progress during this single quarter.
Rather than tiny, almost invisible progress in a multitude of areas, you made major progress in one area. This requires discipline because you are, by definition, ignoring the other approximately 833 other things that are broken. But over the course of a year, you’ve fixed the largest issues in your company and you’re positioned much better.
Don’t Get Distracted
This may seem repetitive, but it’s crucial. Once you’ve determined what you’ll focus on this quarter, you must ignore (or neglect) other areas of the business. Otherwise, you will slip back into overwhelm and doing “all the things.” Distraction is like a fog in the business world: it can distract you from the right path and make you lose your focus and your progress. You must ignore the good in lieu of the great. All the amazing webinars, white papers, or Facebook ads selling a great solution? You must have the discipline to ignore them – even if they are fun and shiny and promise to solve all your business problems in a single download.
Unless the thing you’re tempted to spend time on has a direct application to your “most broken thing,” you must be ruthless. You must ignore it.
A secondary advantage to this newfound focus? You create a queue of challenges to solve. (The Traction methodology calls this The Issues List.) And then when you meet a vendor at a trade show, you can honestly say, “This actually is an issue for me. But I’m just not focused on it this quarter. Would you follow up with me next quarter?” You now have a legitimate, honest way to (politely please) to help vendors help you.
Is This A Today Problem Or A Tomorrow Problem?
Since you are going to spend 12 weeks dedicated to one focused area (the “most broken thing” in your business), you must ensure that you select a problem that should be addressed now instead of something that can be ignored until later.
A few years ago, Marie Kondo became famous for her book on decluttering. Her simple question to help you decide whether or not to keep an item in your home is, “Does it spark joy?” This simple, binary question made it (mostly) easy to part with an old pair of jeans that fit PERFECTLY…before I gave birth to 3 children, a few decades ago. These size 8 jeans did NOT spark joy. So they were not selected for my “keep” pile.
Similarly, you need a simple question to ask, to guarantee that you aren’t tricked into solving the wrong problem. That question is, “Is this a today problem or a tomorrow problem?” Sometimes that simple problem will reveal that this can actually wait. It’s not crucial for today. And by asking that question, you’ll often discover a root problem that does need solved today.
The above tips work well when you’re frustrated with business, where you aren’t making progress, or when your team needs help on picking out priorities. Train yourself to focus on a single task, ignore the rest, and choose wisely.
After all, no business becomes successful overnight. So what are you waiting for? Buckle up. Decide on your company’s most broken system or process. And work on it uninterrupted for the next 12 weeks. I think you’ll be amazed at the results.