A common word, often incorrectly applied. Discipline is about training yourself to do the little things, the seemingly unimportant things correctly and routinely. Managing email, invoicing clients, managing accounts receivable and auditing the performance of your business or team (among other things) are all tasks that require a disciplined approach to be done correctly. Not managed, these things will make a habit of creating time constraints for you, simply because you will:
- Spend too much time looking for things
- Waste time chasing money rather than having a strong cash flow
- Miss important deadlines or upset key clients because of poor email management
- Lack time for coaching and training
Developing strong self-discipline takes time and effort, but will pay dividends over time.
2. Understand important vs. urgent
When faced with a task, determine whether it is important or urgent, or both. How you identify the task will determine what action you take on it. Setting up your decision matrix will make prioritization far simpler, saving you time and frustration. Eisenhower defined this in a four quadrant matrix, which was made up of:
- Urgent and Important – Do first. Focus on these tasks and do them same day
- Not urgent and Important – Schedule the task and ensure it gets done
- Urgent and Not Important – Delegate the task
- Not Urgent and Not Important – Don’t do it at all
In categorizing the many items that land on your plate each day, you can focus on that which is truly important to move the needle in your business.
3. Avoid well intentioned interruptions
Interruptions come in many forms for a business owner. Whether it is the well intentioned employee who is hungry for your attention, the digital marketing firm trying to win your business, or the acquaintance who likes to talk too much, they must be avoided if what they need you for is not both urgent and important. These interruptions will suck up a significant portion of your day, and furthermore, create more ramp up / ramp down time as you move in and out of tasks. Here are a couple of tips to assist with this:
- Ask the person if what they need you for is urgent and important. Explain that you are focused on something at the moment and ask to set up time later on to discuss. Most times you will find that people will figure it out on their own or forget about it, making it not important.
- Let people know that you want to be protective your time and respectful of theirs. If you can’t give your undivided attention to the conversation, perhaps scheduling it at a later time would be best.
- Avoid solicitations like the plague. Explain to the person trying to sell you something that you don’t take cold calls, and will need to understand how the person or product can help you achieve your goals before investing any time in it. Ask them to send you some info so you can ‘schedule’ a review later on in your calendar.
4. Manage input vs. output
Input is what acts on you every day. Emergencies, interruptions, emails, phone calls, text messages, social media messages, and walk-ins are all inputs. These things will be time suckers and if unchecked, will overrule your day.
Output is what you produce each day in a proactive way. It is the things you planned to do and scheduled in your calendar. Output will move your business forward and build it up on a solid foundation.
Some business owners will need to allocate more time to inputs than others depending on the nature of the business, but the one thing that is consistent for all business owners is the need to manage the balance. Schedule time each day for output, be proactive. Avoid fire fighting mode where you feel the only thing you can do is cope each day. Being aware of what is input vs. what is output is a great starting point, and then force yourself to focus on the output to move the needle. One of the best ways to do this is by utilizing an electronic calendar. Schedule your tasks daily and ensure they are getting done.
Luke Bazely is co-founder and President of Driverseat Inc., North America’s fastest growing transportation franchises.