How do you spend your business day? Do you plow through a dreary to-do list? Do you struggle through regular tasks that you’ve been doing day in and day out? What do you listen to while you’re working? Silence? Soft rock? The Rolling Stones? Audioslave? May I suggest Tom Waits and Miles Davis during the quiet hours of 3:00 a.m.?
How you spend your day has a huge impact on your potential success. Henry David Thoreau said that economics comes down to how people spend their time. He also said that you can improve the quality of your life by improving the quality of your day. So if you want to move your business forward and you also want to create a better life, it all starts with changing the nature of what you do each day.
Here are some suggestions that can help improve the quality of your day. These tips may also help to boost your individual economics. They certainly are trite, but I can attest to their importance from my own weathered experience. I learned them the traditional way, by doing the exact opposite for more years than I’m willing to admit over sober conversation.
Don’t do everything on your to-do list
You know the old quadrants of “urgent versus important.” The point is that many of the items on your to-do list don’t really need to get done at all. There should be a few do’s that remain at the bottom, undone. Do what’s critical to your business and what’s important to your life. Save the rest for the afterlife.
Take time off
Can you remember each and every day you put in a big effort at work? No. Can you remember every day you took off the afternoon and slipped off to a movie? Of course. I’ll bet you can remember every minute of your play-hooky days. They are precious. Make more of them.
Delay gratification, but not all gratification
I admit that one of the tricks to creating a successful business is to delay gratification. But don’t get too ant-like. Don’t wave your flag for the charge of self-sacrifice.
Pride yourself on short hours
How many times have you bragged about your long hours. I know the shtick. You make it sound like a complaint, but it’s really a brag. I don’t understand this anymore – though I lived for years in the trap of priding myself on long, hard hours. It’s actually much more of a brag to be successful in very few hours. That’s worth bragging about.
If you’re doing a good job, you don’t need to be at your client’s every beck and call
The hard-to-get date is the coveted date. As a journalist, I prize the interview it takes me weeks to nab. Yet we slobber over our customers and clients until they lose all respect for the value of our work. Let them know you actually have other clients and a real life. Don’t be rude. But don’t drop everything to meet their tiniest whim of a need. Excellent service is a matter of doing the right things for your customers, not doing everything.
Fire some of your clients
If you’re like every other business or profession on earth, you have a number of clients who are simply not worth the trouble. Fire them just as quickly and surely as you would fire a negative employee. They’ll sap your energy and your profit margin, and the kicker is they’ll trash you behind your back.
So, get off for a hike in the mountains. Plant a flower garden – vegetables are too utilitarian. Skip a shower. Indulge your very mammalian nature. Chances are, you’ll come back from the backsliding with some fresh – and useful – ideas.