Over the past few years I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who are struggling with how much they have to get done, and let’s face it, us business owners have a lot of ‘stuff’ to do. So much stuff and all of it urgent. A bulging inbox controlling our day, forcing us to react, impossible to prioritise.
Of course, everyone has days like this, where you can’t see the wood for the trees, where your to-do list for the day is so long it will take you to the middle of next week just to get through half of it. Those days when you don’t feel like your life is your own; when you’re working to other people’s priorities and everyone wants a piece of you; when you feel completely chaotic and out of control.
As one-offs, these days are manageable, there are simple tools and techniques to get you through them, to deal with them, and still get stuff done. But it’s when these days start to merge, when as a new client said to me, ‘Overwhelm becomes the norm’, when you forget where the hell you’re going, let alone how you’re going to get there.
That’s when overwhelm has become a real issue. That’s when you lose focus on your vision; when what’s really important to you seems a million miles away. So what do you do? You go chasing off down rabbit holes looking for the answers, in time-management programmes and apps.
You start subscribing to lots of ‘successful people’ – you know, those people who seem to have it all, looking for the magic pill that’s going to bring you their success. And of course, that’s exactly what it is – their success. You start to believe that success only comes through long hours and even harder work. You lose sight of what’s really important to you; what success means to you; what your ideal future looks like.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, you can start by asking yourself this one killer question:
What am I trying to achieve, and why?
I’m a pretty organised person these days, and this one question (ok, technically two) still has a massive impact on how focused I am, and how much I get done on a day-to-day and month-to-month basis.
It’s a powerful question, whether you’re thinking about the next year, or the next hour.
To find your answer, go back to what I’ve talked about in previous blogs when I asked you to look at your personal ‘why’ you’re in business, what you really want for yourself, your Big Vision.
Are you really clear about what you’re trying to achieve, and why? Because when you are, you’re ready for the simple exercise that will get rid of overwhelm every time it raises its ugly head.
And here it is:
Step 1: Decide on the timeframe that’s overwhelming you. Is it what you have on today, tomorrow, the coming week, the coming month?
Step 2: Next, get yourself a big sheet of paper and a pen.
Step 3: Write down everything — and I mean everything you believe you have to get done in the coming week: personal, business, everything...
Step 4: Once you’ve done that–once you’ve exhausted everything – and you’re sure you have it all on that sheet of paper, grab a big, black marker pen.
Step 5: Go through your list and cross off everything that doesn’t move you towards what you’re trying to achieve; everything that doesn’t move you towards your big vision.
Be ruthless here, look for other people’s priorities on this list and get them crossed off. Look for things that are easy to do, or that feed your inner procrastinator, like setting up a to-do list app, or reading through all those emails you’ve subscribed to, and get those crossed off too.
Cross off anything that doesn’t move you to where you now know that you want to be. Ruthless is the key word.
Step 6: There will be things on your list that do have to be done, but most of them should not be done by you; things like book-keeping, expenses, managing your database.
These things can stay, but they get moved onto a second list, called ‘Delegate’. Add all the things that need to be done, but not by you, to this list.
Recognise those things that you may be busying yourself with because they’re maybe in your comfort zone or you’re good at them but are really a waste of your time and could be done much cheaper elsewhere. This will free up your time to prioritise what only you can and should be doing.
What you are left with after this exercise are three lists:
Your Do list – the things you’re going to do because they move you towards your vision
Your Ditch list – full of other people’s stuff, and things that you’ve just got into the bad habit of adding to your list every day
Your Delegate list – things that you’re going to get other people to do
Give this a go and see what it does for your overwhelm. I promise you, it works like magic.
You have to be ruthless though, and you have to get over your guilt about ditching other people’s priorities. Just remember that’s exactly what they are – other people’s priorities, not yours! You have plenty of your own to be getting on with.
Do One thing: Your DO, DITCH OR DELEGATE exercise!
Thanks for reading.
It’s that time again. The time of year we all look forward to. Lambs leaping; skylarks singing, daffodils dancing and rabbits doing… what rabbits do!
Spring is in the air!
And for many of us that means being overcome by a strange urge to spring clean; to de-clutter and spruce up every area of our home and garden; maybe even to decorate - hoping we’ll keep it that way for twelve months (or twelve days if we have children or pets!).
So, what about your business? Any plans for a makeover?
Maybe you’ve had a successful year. Maybe you’ve worked your socks off and done ok, but you’ve lost a bit of your mojo. Maybe you feel like you’re just repeating the same year over and over; doing good, but not really evolving, not taking that big leap forward
We all know it’s difficult to grow a business and still have a life.
Success undoubtedly means more money, but it can all too often mean less time - sometimes no time, to enjoy it; you’ve heard the expression ‘cash rich but time poor’.
Success means a bigger team, bigger challenges, more sleepless nights.
Success it seems, is not all it’s cracked up to be.
But it could be, if only we took the leap. If only we realised that we had all the right ingredients in our business, to make that leap - to spring forward to success - to be time and cash rich - to have a team that performs brilliantly whether we’re there or not.
We have the money. We have the people. What we don’t have are the systems; they are the springboard to success. And by systems I mean a simple logical repeatable way to do every task in your business. I learned that at McDonald's, where systems run the business and people run the systems.
Get your planning system focused on your destination, develop a plan with your people to take you there, and you have a route map to follow. Create Simple Logical and Repeatable systems, and train your people to use them, and you have a team who can work independently, consistently every day to your high standards. Set up a performance management system that keeps them on track, inspires and motivates them, and you free yourself to work ‘on’ your business, to concentrate on those key elements, like strategy, which will take you to the next level.
As your business grows you cannot sustain managing it as you used to. As your business evolves so you need to evolve as a business owner. Spring is a perfect time for a new start; so are you ready to spring forward?
Do one thing: visit www.mariannepage.co.uk or contact me on email@example.com for more information on how MPL can help.
‘9950! I just need to go up and down stairs a few times; I’m nearly there!’
Are you hooked on your 10000 steps a day? It’s that time of year again when we review how those new year resolutions are going. Use the stairs, eat less sugar, get off the bus a stop early.
With the state of obesity and the impact on a stretched NHS, there’s a real abundance of programmes and adverts out there helping us to eat better, sleep better and particularly move more. The aim is 10000 steps a day. Apparently that number was a pretty random figure, yet like me, you probably know someone who is addicted to achieving it daily.
Many of us have started to use watches and fitbits to measure our activity and keep us focused on our daily steps target. Research has shown we can get so hooked on our target that we’ll (literally) keep going that extra mile, to ensure we achieve it.
So if personal targets like this can work so effectively, what about business? Are targets in business good or bad? Well, I would say that it really depends on the target.
Did you hear the one about the train driver that went straight through every station to ensure he kept to his timetable! (Probably an urban myth.) But I did know of an organisation whose target was to process work in two days. So guess what happened to work not completed in that time? Yes, it got fitted in as and when, so managers could concentrate on getting new work done in the timescale by which they’d be judged. These managers were celebrated even though their old work was piling up. But at that time the age and level of that work was not a target and not measured, until it began to impact on the Customer. You probably have your own examples of targets where true customer service is not at their heart.
If you set a target and either celebrate it’s achievement or give people hell if it’s not reached, guess what? People will start to deliver it at any cost. If that target is not holistic or engenders fear of failure, somewhere down the line the business and your people will suffer.
So there can be dangers in target setting but also great rewards.
So what makes a good target?
A good target will always take you towards your business vision - so you need to be clear about that for starters.
It will be holistic - in the best interests of both your Customer and your business to engender a culture of excellence.
You can’t set targets just to improve profit - you’ll probably succeed in the short term, but what will the long-term cost be if you’ve achieved your target by cutting corners on quality?
Equally, you can set targets aimed at driving Customer satisfaction above everything else, but this could cause big problems if you ignore the needs of your business profit.
You want productivity – but if you focus on productivity without any thought for quality, customer focus or value for money, you may end up being very productive doing all the wrong things.
You get the gist.
Targets, like your SMART* goals, will be challenging, but achievable. You’ll be able to measure them, and celebrate their achievement with the team.
The very best targets drive your people and your business to excel and give everyone a real sense of achievement - just like your fitbit!
Do one thing: Review your business plans and ask yourself - are my plans a route map to my business vision / my destination? Do I have targets as key milestones along the way and are those targets holistic with the customer at their heart? Do they create a culture of excellence? Is my whole team involved in their creation and achievement?
For more information on how MPL can help you, contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org
*SMART goals traditional definition:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Realistic
T - Time-bound
Imagine you have a boat. It’s the start of a new year and you’ve just set sail, headed out to sea - full of optimism and excitement. Captain of your destiny. Owner of your fate.
But where are you headed? Wherever the current takes you? Slave to the tide and the prevailing wind? Or have you plotted a course to take you to your dream destination?
Now imagine that boat is your business.
Business navigation is no easier than navigating the ocean, but just like sailing the high seas, you’ll always be better off with robust preparation and planning, so give some thought to the following:
What’s the name of your boat?
This will say a lot about how you see yourself right now.
If you had to name it today what would it be: ‘Victory’, Endurance’?
Or might it be ‘All at Sea’?
Have you set your course?
What are your goals and milestones for 2019; for the next 90 days?
And what about practical action plans to achieve them?
How will you recognise that storms are coming before they hit?
What have you put in place to pick up on problems - to anticipate and overcome them?
How will you fill the gaps in your knowledge and experience?
Who or what are your anchors that will keep you from going under?
These are often the people who keep you grounded, keep you going, maybe develop and inspire you. A family member or a trusted mentor.
Perhaps they are words from a loved one that you carry with you.
Or perhaps it’s a faith, a belief in something greater than yourself.
How have you selected your crew?
Did you recruit to your values and passion? And how have you developed their skills to help them fulfill their promise? Can they take over happily if you get seasick or need to sleep?
What are the Values, the compass points that will keep you on a true course?
Those things that make you and your business tick, that show the world what you stand for. That you hold true too, day in and day out.
Do one thing: Think about where you're headed in 2019, and ask these questions to check that you’re prepared for whatever comes - good or otherwise.
Wishing you a safe and splendid passage through the year.
For more information on how MPL can help you visit www.mariannepage.co.uk or contact us at
You are relaxing with family and friends...the sun is shining and you feel warm and glowing inside and out. You've just had another great year, you achieved everything that you set out to again and business is booming. You are a successful and respected business owner with a reputation for getting things done, building strong relationships and looking after the people who work with you and for you. Better still, you know that you have achieved this success without the stress, without the ridiculously long and frustrating hours, without ever feeling out of control. You've achieved it because you focused on achieving it...you focused on doing the things that would move you towards your vision, and got rid of, or handed over the things that didn't, to someone else. You remembered why you love what you do, and every day became a joyful challenge...you started to make every day count. You got your life back, your relationships have never been better. Life is good.
Can you picture it? Is this your future? Is this what you want for yourself?
Does it seem unattainable...a million miles from where you are now?
Maybe you had a great January, and you're feeling pumped up for the year...everything seems possible. And maybe you didn't. Maybe things didn't quite go according to plan...maybe you got distracted by your tax return...the miserable weather and short days got to you...you spent so long on planning and discussing your plans, that you never got round to putting anything into ACTION. You ran out of time.
Well ok...January's gone now...but February is here, and with a whole 28 days in which to Get Stuff Done. So how much do you want this?
I'm a huge believer that if you are truly passionate about what you are trying to achieve, then Getting Stuff Done comes down to one thing...having a strategy - having a system and processes that will help you to get organised.
If what you are doing doesn't excite you...doesn't get you out of bed in the morning...doesn't stop you turning on daytime tv, surfing the net or playing online games...then that is your problem...not a lack of time.
So here's your first challenge for February... Figure out what you're trying to achieve...and why it's important to you. What's the future you want for yourself?
Whatever you come up with, one thing's for sure...taking ACTION today will move you one step closer to it.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)