Devour big projects one bite at a time
Published in The Tennessean June 2, 2014
By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville
“Help! I have too much to do and continue to fall behind.”
My counterintuitive advice is to STOP what you’re doing. Too often we get caught up in the maze and don’t take time to figure a way out. You need to plan, prioritize, set deadlines, and delegate when possible.
Plan imposing projects, breaking them into tasks, with each task having its own deadline. When you don’t break up big projects, you will often put the whole thing off until the last minute and you won’t do it properly, if at all. Dividing it into tasks, you can make measurable progress and still complete other work that needs to get done.
Set priorities for all tasks and projects. Things that relate to customers, whether selling, delivering or providing service, typically receive a very high priority and often must be completed at specific times. Internal matters such as keeping up with your financials and producing marketing plans are also high priority but can often be accomplished outside normal business hours. Finally, reading trade journals and similar tasks receive a lower priority. Remember that even these must get done, but only when time allows.
Keep a list of what needs to get done each day and set “appointments” for critical items; time during which phone calls, texts and emails will be ignored. Schedule time to handle calls and messages, but take thirty to sixty minute blocks of uninterrupted time to work on high priority tasks.
If you have employees, learn to delegate. Yes, I know, it may take longer to teach and supervise than to do it yourself but next time they will know what to do. Also, if you are a perfectionist, consider that sometimes demanding flawlessness from others and/or yourself is more than you can hope for, and probably more than is needed.
One way to improve quality is to build in buffer time. This allows you to complete work ahead of schedule and then review it before the actual deadline. For example, I always complete my articles at least 24 hours before they are due. This allows me to re-read and make final edits after a night’s rest. It’s amazing how easy it is to make the changes when I’m fresh.
Finally, remember that your business is not your only priority. An executive I know relates the story of how he always made it a point to be at home for dinner with his family, knowing he would go back to the office and work well into the night. He could have been home earlier if he stayed at the office and worked though dinner, but that was not his priority. What are your priorities?
Ed Rappuhn is a mentor, workshop facilitator, and the past-chair of SCORE Nashville. SCORE mentors guide entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. Sign up for a free SCORE mentor, find out about our reasonably priced workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at www.scorenashville.org