Tag: prioritizing

Please, help me solve my turkey dilemma

I grew up with a mother who was largely indifferent to the holidays. As a kid, I could not understand this. Time off school? Gifts? Holiday food? Gatherings of family and friends? What’s not to love?

Of course, my siblings and I were largely indifferent to the huge amount of work that went into the holidays. Most of it performed by my mom.

I certainly get it now. Like it or not, and as much as I anticipate the holidays, most of the work falls squarely in my lap. Dragging the non-allergenic tree out of storage. Shopping with hundreds of other harried holiday planners. Trying to decide between a too-small turkey and a too-large turkey because I’m so late to the game. And yet somehow, it just seems easier to do it all yourself than to seek help from others.

Anyone who’s ever worked for me knows that I am a five-star delegater but every business owner I know struggles with that feeling that if you want to produce quality output it’s just so much darn easier to do it yourself than to try to explain your expectations to someone else. It’s a nasty trap at home and at work but if you struggle with delegation there are ways to lighten the load a little:

  • Double check expectations. Sure we want to deliver the best product and service we can but as with anything, there is a point of diminishing returns – and at some point the curve gets pretty steep. If you don’t know where, ask your customers (or family members) what’s important to them and what they can do without. They’ll tell you.
  • Take a second look at your task list. I guarantee some of your tasks are duplicative and some of them will take twice as long as they should because you don’t have a plan. Take a “time out” to prioritize, group, and reassign tasks. It’s likely some will come right off the list – I know the closer I get to the holidays the less of a perfectionist I become.
  • Rid yourself of clutter. It’s distracting and much of it is probably unnecessary. One quick fix – look around your home or office and pick up 50 things before you move on to your next activity. This is easy to do in a house full of kids and goes a long way toward freeing up your brain for other tasks. More on organization in my next post.

Of course the ever-earlier holiday hype doesn’t help the strain. This Halloween, when I ran out late in the day to pick up treats to hand out I was met with a display of Christmas candy.

Do you opt for the too-small turkey or the too-large turkey – and why? Send your opinions to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.

How I spent my extra hour

This morning when my husband and I woke up we realized we’d forgotten to turn the clocks back to reflect the end of Daylight Savings Time. But rather than reset them then, we decided to wait.

As I said to him, “I don’t need the hour right now, but I’m sure I’ll need it later in the day.”

So we waited until around noon. When I started to ask myself where the day was going I set the clocks back and suddenly, I was back on schedule.

Tells me a lot about how I spend my days. I start out with lots of energy and good intentions but as time wears on and the to-do list gets longer I start to lag behind. And I hate getting to the end of the day and feeling like I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do.

So this worked for me – so well, in fact, that I think I’ll do it every year. Wish I could find a way to do it more often than that.

The allure of roadside distractions…er, attractions

My husband has pledged to visit all of the Top 50 Roadside Attractions in our travels. While I have no real disagreement with this plan, it is my opinion that these attractions vary quite significantly in quality and overall interest. Big “yes” to London Bridge in Arizona. Big “not so sure” to the Gorilla Holding a VW Bug in Vermont.

And the other thing: I have noticed that it takes much longer to get where we’re going if we stop at every “point of interest” along the way.

You often see this in businesses in their early years, especially at the Unruly Toddler stage. The business is established enough to have some momentum but not so disciplined as to ignore those shiny objects on the horizon. Let me assure you – sometimes the world’s largest cow head looks better from the road!

If you are considering a new initiative and suspect  you might be on a trip to nowhere, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this detour take me where I want to go?
  • Does it fit into my long-term objectives?
  • Will it bring me value?
  • Does it solve a problem for me or my customers?
  • Am I a credible source for this product or service?
  • Will it make me money?
  • How much of my time, energy and money will it consume?
  • Is it really as cool as it seems? What are its not-so-pretty features?

The point is to make sure you will still reach your overall destination if you take the time to pull off the road.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen in your travels? Or the least cool? Send it sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use it I’ll feature your business.

How to avoid a tantrum

I’m relieved to say that I can count the total number of toddler-tantrums my three kids had on one hand.  I was fortunate – but I was also careful. There were some rules I followed that kept my kids cool. If you’re dealing with a business that’s an Unruly Toddler, these rules could help you, too.

Rule 1 – Stick to a schedule. For your toddler: Respect nap and meal times and don’t schedule events that conflict with them if you can avoid it. For your business: Schedule tasks you must do with regularity, like your bookkeeping or returning customer calls, and put them on your calendar to protect the time so you don’t schedule over it.

Rule 2 – Set realistic goals. For your toddler: Don’t plan two hours of errands if you know your toddler has tolerance for one – that second hour will be sheer agony. For your business: Prioritize your tasks in order of importance and do the most important one first. That way, even if it’s the only thing you get done that day you can still go home feeling you accomplished something.

Rule 3 – Don’t burn the midnight oil. For your toddler: It always amazes me to see young kids out when I run a late night errand. It’s a melt-down waiting to happen. For your business: It’s my experience that productivity plummets at a certain point. Even if you’re under pressure to finish something you might be better off getting some rest and tackling the last of it when you’re rested.

Rule 4 – Trust your judgment. For your toddler: If you’re seeing the warning signs, get out while you still can. I’ve been known to leave a full shopping cart (and the store) when I see frustration brewing. Sometimes even a temporary interruption can change the outcome to something more positive. For your business: If it doesn’t feel like the right path, get off the path. Don’t pursue an initiative if you have even the slightest suspicion it might not be the right way to go – at least until you get some advice or have time for additional assessment.

No rule is perfect, but if it can prevent some frustration or embarrassment, it might be worth a try.

How do you head off a tantrum? Send your thoughts to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them I’ll feature your business.

More help with prioritization

I had so much feedback on my post last week  that I thought I’d follow up with some additional thoughts on prioritization.  If you didn’t see the post, I suggested you start to prioritize tasks by sorting them into the following categories:

  • Low Impact/High Cost – These are the projects that require huge amounts of time, energy and money and have little impact on your long-term business. Kind of like those weekly fencing lessons for the kids – fun to watch but it’s not going to get them into college.
  • Low Impact/Low Cost – These projects have little impact but at least they don’t cost much! It’s like the exercise video you bought on sale and used once. Don’t bother.
  • High Impact/High Cost – These are the things you dream about. The family trip to Hawaii. The backyard pool. High impact but high cost. Worth doing, but make sure you plan – and budget – ahead so you can really implement them.
  • High Impact/Low Cost – Bingo! You’ve hit the jackpot. It’s the $1 winning lottery ticket. These are the things to focus on first. High impact to the business but relatively easy to implement.

If you’re struggling to sort your tasks, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help decide the categories in which they belong:

  • Should be doing this task right now?
  • Will the task bring me money if I do it right now?
  • Is the task necessary to my business?
  • Do I want to do this task?
  • Do I have to get it done?
  • Can someone else do it instead of me?
  • Can someone else do it better than I can?
  • Is my failure to do it affecting someone else’s ability to get something done?
  • Is it affecting my ability to get another task done?
  • What would happen if I didn’t do it at all?
  • What will it cost me if I fail to do it?

Can you think of other questions we should be asking? If yes, please comment or send them to me at sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com and I’ll include them in a later post.

Happy prioritizing!

I can’t throw away the artwork!

When my daughter hit preschool she started bringing home artwork – scribbles; sculptures made of clay, feathers and drinking straws;  abstract paintings. I loved them all and couldn’t bring myself to part with any of them.

Well, two more kids later the artwork started to stack up. Delightful drawings were everywhere. One of my kids brought home three of every project! After I had sorted out those I liked best and foisted some others on unsuspecting relatives I had to face facts – it was time to let some of those beautiful projects go.

To those of us with entrepreneurial minds, those hundreds of ideas and innovations floating around in our heads are a lot like that artwork. Each is beautiful in its own way and it is so hard to let any of them go! But you can’t keep it all – eventually you are lost in a sea of beautiful possibilities, none of them getting done.

To figure how which projects are worth pursuing, apply this test:

  • Low Impact/High Cost – These are the projects that require huge amounts of time, energy and money and have little impact on your long-term business. Kind of like those weekly fencing lessons for the kids – fun to watch but it’s not going to get them into college.
  • Low Impact/Low Cost – These projects have little impact but at least they don’t cost much! It’s like the exercise video you bought on sale and used once. Don’t bother.
  • High Impact/High Cost – These are the things you dream about. The family trip to Hawaii. The backyard pool. High impact but high cost. Worth doing, but make sure you plan – and budget – ahead so you can really implement them.
  • High Impact/Low Cost – Bingo! You’ve hit the jackpot. It’s the $1 winning lottery ticket. These are the things to focus on first. High impact to the business but relatively easy to implement.

The challenge comes in if you can’t tell which ones are which – if that’s the case, get some help.

What’s the next initiative you’ll be taking on? Send it to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use it, I’ll feature your business.

Setting expectations…and the Christmas that almost wasn’t

One year, in what I can only assume was a state of extreme sleep deprivation, I invited six relatives and a dog to stay with us over the Christmas holiday. The fact that I had a colicky newborn, a 3-year-old and a full-time job did not factor into the equation. As Christmas approached I somehow managed to buy gifts and get my house in order. But I never made it to the grocery store.

Christmas morning, I awoke to the sinking realization that I had nothing to feed the family of ten for Christmas dinner. The afternoon found me searching the freezer in a near panic trying to come up with dinner out of thin air. And then my eyes lit on a large bag of frozen meatballs bought for a party that never materialized. Voila – spaghetti and meatballs!

Although I felt pretty sheepish about it, we had a relaxed and enjoyable celebration. No one seemed bothered that we were eating such a pedestrian dinner. It was only years later when I mentioned it to one of my relatives that I realized that no one knew that I had punted dinner. They thought it was dinner as planned.

The lesson here is about expectations – are the people you serve setting them or are you? Throughout my management career I have seen an awful lot of people struggle to fulfill an expectation no one actually has. The result is a lot of unneeded work and a fair amount of resentment when the work is not ultimately appreciated as much as the effort warrants. Give yourself a break this holiday season – focus on what the people around you really expect – whether it’s kindness, competence, warmth or a reasonably good meal. And punt the rest.

Happy holidays!

Have a story about setting expectations? Send it to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com. If I use it I’ll feature your business.