Priorities, priorities, and priorities. Every day we prioritize what we are focusing our attention on that day… or we should be doing that if we want to achieve our goals.
For many years, I found it difficult to determine where I should focus my attention – should I do what I needed to do IN my business operationally? should I focus my attention on my long-term goals and work ON my business?
There is a natural tension between working IN – doing those day-to-day routine tasks that keep your business running smoothly – and working ON – doing those things that move you forward towards your long-term goals and vision. Often the challenge isn’t understanding what needs to be done IN your business or ON your business to move your organization forward, but in determining which needs to be prioritized.
Is it more important to do my inventory (work IN my business) or reach out to past clients to see how I can help them move their organizations forward (work ON my business). Is it more important to do my bookkeeping (working IN) or assess how far I’ve come towards my goals (working ON) my business? The list of competing activities could be long and as unique as your company.
Then I was introduced to the Eisenhower Matrix (or the Urgent / Important matrix) and suddenly I had a tool to help me evaluate and prioritize those things that I needed to do.
The key with this matrix is to place all the items on your to-do list in one of these four boxes based on where it stands in terms of two questions:
How urgent is it? Does it need to be done today?
How Important is it? Will it move your business forward significantly?
Using a simple to-do list that you or I might have on any given day, let’s place them in the various segments. Let’s assume the following: It’s April 31st, month-end, and that you are working with your Manager and one front end retail staff person.
Compile and Pay GST (work IN). > URGENT (due today) and Important
Read another chapter of the Leadership Book (work ON). > Important (skill development), but not urgent
Ensure monthly inventory is done (work IN). > Urgent and not important for you to do > assign to Manager
Call 5 past clients to inquire about how they like their recent purchase (work ON). > Important but not urgent. Carve out time today or tomorrow to do it. Good for OWNER to do. (relationship building)
Clean and re-organize the front merchandise area. (work IN) > Not urgent, but important. Ask Manager / Staff to do it within the week.
Respond to long-term customers' email regarding a new purchase (work IN). > Not urgent but important. It should be prioritized within 48 hours to maximize sales potential.
Research potential new business opportunities (for fun) > Not urgent nor Important.
Depending on where you are in the year, your goals, and your supports, this Matrix can be a great tool for evaluating what you need to do and what others who work for you, can be doing for you. It also helps you focus in on what it is YOU specifically need to do (relationship building) and what you need to train others to do (particularly if they are not something that you enjoy).
The Matrix is flexible enough for you to build your own idiocrasies into (likes and dislikes in business). For example, I hate bookkeeping. It’s never important in my day to day work, even though it’s important to my business. I build my business knowing this and within 4 weeks of having opened my doors, I had a bookkeeper who looked after all-things paperwork, except invoicing which oddly enough, I enjoyed!
As you can see this Matrix is a great tool for you and your team to help prioritize what needs to be done today, tomorrow, in the next week, and in the next month. It will help focus your attention on doing those things in your business (in and on) that are the most urgent and most important – or finding others who can do the urgent, but not necessarily important work.
Let me know how this tool works for you, or if you have different tools that you prefer to use.
I'd love to hear...