You wake up on a Thursday morning and you are feeling a bit dejected. This has not been a productive week. At all. Every day you sit at your desk and even though you kind of have a to-do list you haven’t check much of anything off. But you worked all week. Really you did.
So, what did you do? I bet I know what you did, and I don’t even know you. You spent nearly all your working time putting out fires. No, not literal fires. Those tasks and obligations that come up in your business that you aren’t expecting, but they feel like they are on fire.
How does this happen? And goodness why does it seem to happen every week? Well part of it is a perception problem. You get an e-mail about a normal business task (like customer service) and you start working on that immediately because you have to take care of your customers, right? Or you come across a business article about SEO (search engine optimization), and you realize you’ve never really done that properly on your site. Twenty articles and a dozen YouTube videos later – you’ve not made any progress on your SEO, and to add insult to serious injury you didn’t get a single thing done on your to-do list today. Again.
So how do we fix this?
Well, there are a lot of things that can cause fire-fighter mode, but one of the main firestarters is email. You keep your email open all day and you allow it to distract and redirect you. And even if you do get work done, it’s not the work you should be doing. I check my email twice a day – once in the morning, and once before I shut down for the day. I’m vicious about deleting things and ignoring anything that might lead me off course. And if there truly is work to be done from e-mail I make sure I note it appropriately and get back to my regularly scheduled programming.
NO PLAN FRAN
Do you know what you should be doing every day to move your business forward? Do you know what things you need to be working on week to week to reach your goals? Do you even have any goals?!?
If you wake up on Monday morning and open your email and say hmmmm what do I need to do this week I have some bad news for you my friend. You are already behind. I have a massive spreadsheet that helps me keep track of all my tasks I need to complete to reach my goals, and every Sunday night I plan out what needs to happen in the next week. Plan ahead to keep those fires from starting!
Is it really on fire? I mean really. Like the SEO example above, I know I really, really need to work on the SEO for my business. But it’s not on fire. It needs to go into my long-term goal list and be broken down so I can actually plan it out and make progress. And the truth of it is, me pushing the SEO boulder down the road a bit is not going to have any catastrophic effects on my business.
THE PARKING LOT
One of my favorite ways to put out fires is what I call the parking lot. I have an unhealthy obsession with post-it notes – if you follow me you might already know this. I am particularly fond of the super sticky ones – because those post-its will stick to my walls and not fall down. I have a short wall on the right-hand side of my desk that is my parking lot. Any time something comes up that I know is not a task for right now (not on fire!) I write up a quick post-it note and slap it on the wall.
That way I can come back to it and see if/when it needs to be added to my goals. Normally I don’t add goals but once a quarter, so that’s usually when I revisit the parking lot to see what truly needs attention. That’s also a great time to look over the ideas – some of them it’s easy to instantly look and see that it’s an idea that is not helpful to your business and you can scrap it!
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