A few years ago I watched a demonstration by author Stephen Covey where he makes a convincing argument about the need to decide and focus on our priorities.
It inspired me back then to figure out what was important in my business.. and it might inspire you too, now.
And reaffirming what Stephen Covey demonstrated – which lead me to writing this blog post, I recently discovered that we only have a limited amount of willpower each day, so we have to use it wisely. I’ll tell you more about that in a second.
But for now let’s get back to the demonstration.
In the video Stephen asks a volunteer to fill a jar with sand, rocks and stones. All must fit inside the jar.
The sand, rocks and stones are good metaphors for our daily business tasks.. and all the important things we need to do in order to build a successful one.
I perceive each one of these in a way that means something to me. You will find your own meaning.
The volunteer puts the sand in first (actually Stephen does this for her, probably to rig the outcome – but it’s forgivable).
The sand represents all the small stuff in our business – checking email, Facebook and reading forums, you know all the stuff that doesn’t really matter or add much value.
Then the stones are added, these represent the more important things like writing blog posts, answering pre-sales emails, and personal education.
Finally, when the biggest rocks are added, the most important stuff that gives the highest returns, like creating new products, providing customer support, and email marketing, the volunteer finds that there’s not enough room in the jar to fit everything in.
This shows that if we focus on the small tasks that don’t give us much return on our investment – and time is the most valuable investment we can make, then we don’t leave much room for the stuff that really matters.
Here’s the video:
What do you think of this?
The way I see it is; everyday we have dozens of things that demand our time and attention, every time we check your email inbox, or social media, or visit forums, someone is asking us to hand over our time and attention.
That’s mostly cool, right? We’re happy to help people when they need it and it makes us feel good when we do.
But think about how many emails you receive. Most of them won’t provide any real value. So why waste time checking every 30 minutes?
You see, when you know what the important things are and give those tasks the time and attention they deserve first, you make room for everything. And if you somehow don’t get everything done, then who cares if you miss out on the occasional news headline or funny email.
So here’s an exercise for you to do right now.
Grab a notepad and list down all your daily tasks from when you wake up in the morning to when you stop in the evening, or however long your typical working day is.
Then give each of your tasks a score from 1 – 3.
Number 3 being the least important (that produce the lowest amount of profit), and number 1 being the most important (that produce the highest amount of profit).
Your working day should begin with the highest priority tasks first.
Here’s what my list looks like:
Existing customer support:#1
Product creation: #1
Email marketing: #1
Answering pre-sales questions: #2
Creating blog posts: #2
Business education time: #2
Social media: #3
Non sales meetings: #3
Here’s why I put things in this order.
#1 – High priority tasks:
Product creation and direct marketing are things that will benefit my business for years to come… long term sales. It’s all about people who are ready to buy RIGHT NOW, or who have already.
#2 – Medium priority task:
Creating posts and answering pre-sales questions will still produce revenue, but a smaller amount. It helps get people warmed up for future sales.
#3 – Low priority tasks:
These typically include other people ….And when it comes to giving other people your time and attention you gotta be extra vigilant. People will suck your time if you let them.
The ones who support your business (customers) are high priority, the people who MIGHT are second in line… while the people who don’t buy your stuff, or help your business grow (and probably never will) go to the bottom of ladder.
So the next time you’re presented with a choice, think about which one of these categories it falls into, before committing.
Remember I mentioned at the start of this post that we only have a limited amount of willpower each day? Well, I was sceptical when I first heard about it.
But there’s an actual term for it, it’s called Ego Depletion.
So, brace yourself here comes the science bit.
The Science Bit
In 1998 scientists Roy Baumeister, Ellen Bratslavsky, Dianne Tice and Mark Muraven did an experiment in which they discovered that willpower is like a muscle – and will eventually get tired.
They separated subjects into two groups; one could eat as many cookies as they liked, while the other had to resist.
Science found that the ‘resist’ group didn’t perform too well on the second task, proving that willpower is finite.
They also found that willpower isn’t decreasing over time, so it’s not a generational thing – 20 years ago people had the same level of willpower as they do today, but we’re being bombarded with more temptations and more demands on our time than ever before.
So choose how you spend your time wisely, and if it’s not helping you to grow your business then you might want to send it to the bottom of your priority list.