Business success: Why more hours doesn’t mean more productivity
Don’t kid yourself that working all hours will lead to business success – but using your time wisely can, says Brett Davidson, MD of FP Advance
Let’s start with a quote that gets thrown around a lot, from Michael Gerber’s EMyth:
“Most entrepreneurs fail because you are working IN your business rather than ON your business.”
It may be well used but this quote is as true today as it was when Gerber originally penned it in the 1980s. I see loads of honest, hard-working advisers trying to get their business moving ahead, but not always succeeding, despite the hours they put in.
However, “working ON your business” as Gerber puts it, requires you to step away from the coalface and invest some time in thinking about what your real priorities are. This can feel difficult to do when you are perpetually under the cosh.
We all have the same 24 hours given to us each day. When I hear people say “I don’t have the time to invest in my business” I believe they are mistaken. It’s not time that is the issue, it’s how you use it.
Back In The Day…
Way back before I was married to Deb, I was living in Sydney and was an owner/adviser of a small advisory firm. I knew how to work. Over a two-year period, I was regularly starting at 7:30am each day and working through until 8:30pm most nights, along with putting in a full day on Saturdays. Most of my life was spent working.
When we got married, Deb quite rightly stated this wouldn’t be conducive to marital bliss. So we agreed on some limits: an 8:30am start and 6pm finish each day and no working on Saturdays.
So what happened?
When I look back on that initial crazy two years, I realised we achieved bugger-all, other than burning ourselves out.
Once we put limits on the time we spent at work, all the growth started. We had to use our brains and our creativity to find solutions to issues, rather than just accepting them and putting in long hours to get the job done.
In the two years after setting those time limits, we grew around 30% year on year, which took us from around $600k turnover to more than $1M. This was the breakthrough we’d been looking for.
I had discovered that hard work does not necessarily equate to getting results. It’s not working that moves you forward per se, it’s working on the right things.
The part that can be uncomfortable when you decide to change your habits is that you have to begin saying no. The things you’re saying no to may feel important at the time, but they’re not actually important at all. People are going to be disappointed because some phone calls might not get returned immediately (or ever); some emails might experience the same fate; investment managers or life company reps that request a meeting might be turned away.
It’s simply not possible to have the business you want and keep everyone else happy at the same time. For your own benefit, as well as the benefit of the business, it’s vital to realise that these two outcomes are mutually exclusive.
Kerri Richardson, an internationally recognised lifestyle coach, believes:
“Some of the best energetic marketing you can do comes from disappointing people. Your business needs structure and parameters to flourish, and by deciding what your priorities are for yourself and your business, you can more easily identify what you need to say no to. Setting firm and consistent boundaries with projects and people who drain your time and energy sets you up for success both personally and professionally.”
How do you re-prioritise?
There’s loads of information you can read on this topic, but a helpful idea I use comes from Tim Ferriss in his book, The 4-Hour Work Week (which is definitely worth a read).
Every morning when you’re setting your priorities for the day, take a blank A4 piece of paper and fold it in half three times so it’s quite small. Write down your top two priorities for the day on this small piece of paper and work on them.
By keeping your focus on the two most important things each day you’ll find that you make real progress. Yes, you will still get interrupted by other things, but you can carry that piece of paper in your pocket if need be. That way you always know what your focus is for that day and you can return to it once the other matters are dealt with.
It’s a seemingly simple idea, but one that I’ve found surprisingly effective.
How you use the time you’ve got is the difference between achieving your vision and not.
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