The Key to Breaking Out of Reaction Mode
Someone (who I’ll call Fred) asked me a great question the other day that I think will be helpful for other business owners. Fred asked me what they could do in their business to stop being so reactive.
If you are a business owner who is actively managing the day-to-day in your business, you know how easy it is to get sucked into the vortex of to-do lists and responding to inbound requests. You work 50, 60 or even 70+ hours a week getting stuff done. How is it that you can get so much work done but still feel like the business is simply spinning its wheels?
For anyone looking to get off their heels and into a more proactive stance on the balls of your feet, here’s the answer I gave to Fred: “Be more strategic!”
On the surface, answering a question about how to be more proactive with advice about being more strategic might feel like I misunderstood Fred’s question. After all… wasn’t Fred looking for a way to break out of being in constant fire fighting mode? He didn’t ask about setting strategy.
Here’s why I told Fred his challenge has to do with strategy:
Most business owners (and their teams) lack the strategic clarity they need to properly filter everything coming at them. Unless you know how to judge one thing as being more or less important than another, you can’t make the correct resource allocation decisions, including how you spend your precious time.
When you don’t know how to distinguish one activity from another in terms of strategic importance, you will continue to play the reaction game. You know, the game where you try to keep all of the balls in the air or all of the plates spinning (or whatever other analogy you like to use for trying to keep up with all of the many tasks or people vying for your attention).
On the other hand, when you get super clear on the desired destination and have made strategic decisions about how you will (and will not) pursue your objective, you will know what to say yes to. More importantly, you will know what to say “No!” to, freeing up a bunch of time previously wasted on the wrong activities.
When you know what steps you must take to make needed progress this week or this month or this quarter, you can structure that work into your calendar. Without a specific plan that you are committed to, your day will fill up with less important but seemingly urgent items. These items begin to pile up on you until you feel like you are constantly responding to things.
Now, I’m not so naive as to believe that all of the requests and to-do items will magically disappear when you have strategic clarity. You’ll still have customers to respond to, employee issues, partner and/or vendor requests, and important sales calls. However, a clear objective with sound supporting strategies WILL allow you to be more intentional about how to invest your time. AND, if you’ll complement the strategy with a good meeting rhythm, you’ll find your business is becoming more and more proactive.
Strategic clarity will also help you know what role to hire next to own important activities and results. When you have a stated objective with well-thought-out strategies, you won’t hire people to take busy work off your plate. You’ll hire people to help your business arrive at the chosen destination.
For business owners who are looking for assistance to break out of the whirlwind of their business and into a more proactive stance, our Elite Forum event is great for helping you get clear on where you are going and how you will get there. We also teach you a set of quarterly planning exercises that will enable you to align your team to the most important work for the coming quarter.
Fred seemed to be very grateful for the advice I shared with him. But, if he is like most business owners I know, he’ll go right back to working as hard as he can to get more done. Before you know it, months or even years will go by without meaningful progress.
Like Fred, you can choose to take steps now to be less reactive in your business. Schedule 1-2 days in the next 30 days to step away from your business and create your next mission and accompanying strategies. I recommend you involve key team members in the process.
OR, you can continue to work like crazy to deal with everything coming at you, always feeling very busy but never making any real progress.
What will you choose?
(Hint for successful entrepreneurs: before you leave this page, pull up your calendar and block off a couple days to get strategic clarity for your business. You’ll be glad you did!)
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