Many entrepreneurs struggle when they begin to work for themselves. Not because they’re not fired up. Not because they aren’t talented. But because they don’t know where to start. If you feel like struggle with setting priorities for your business, you’re in the right place. Once you learn the system for success, all you need is discipline and it will become a piece of cake!
The Oversimplified Version of Business Priorities
Okay, here’s the deal. I am going to break down a full explanation of how to prioritize below. It’s a system I learned when I was in college growing a six-figure branch of the business I worked for while taking 18 credit hours. It’s the system I still subconsciously use today and the system top entrepreneurs have used to get where they are today.
HOWEVER, in general, I feel that in business, daily priorities fall in this order:
- Keep your integrity…
- What did you tell clients they could expect of you? If you’re super busy, but you told your client they could expect their service / product to be completed by a certain date, it trumps all else.
- What gains clients / grows your business directly?
- This ties hand-in-hand with the above priority. You will not grow your business if your clients give you terrible reviews and people hate working with you.
- But taking it one step further, this is taking actions that will directly result in more clients. For example, reaching out to a target client to talk to them about your business or up-selling current clients.
- What grows your business / brand awareness to support acquiring more clients down the road?
- These are actions that don’t directly bring in a client now, but aid in the growth of your brand or business. For example, writing a blog post, recording a podcast, or doing your business taxes.
Diving Deeper: The Eisenhower Matrix
President Eisenhower once said, “the things that are urgent are seldom important and the things that are important are seldom urgent.”
Out of this, the Eisenhower Matrix was born (below)… Every task in life and business can be categorized in one of the four quadrants. Let’s go through each one by one.
Clarifying the Meaning of Urgent & Important
Urgent simply means it’s due in the immediate future (day or two) or needs to be done NOW.
When I say “important” and “not important,” please remember that I’m not necessarily saying there isn’t a time or place for the task. I’m simply reminding you that important tasks are ones that you complete personally that lead to business growth / value in your life.
Urgent / Important
Let me just start by telling you that this is NOT the place from which you want to run your business. While I understand that sometimes things pop up unpredictably, most important tasks can and should be planned into your schedule before they become urgent.
When you allow important tasks to become urgent, STRESS happens. The longer you live in this quadrant, the more you’ll feel like you’re in the business of putting out fires. So, repeat after me…
“I will not allow important tasks to become urgent.”
Urgent and important tasks may include:
- Deadlined tasks that got pushed back from the “Important / Not Urgent” quadrant.
- Unforeseen crises or emergencies that pop up and need to be fixed.
To avoid letting deadlined tasks from getting pushed into this quadrant, there are two main things you can do. First, check your calendar each week for deadlines coming due that month and week to stay on top of them. And secondly, set good expectations with clients so you’re not scrambling to get them final products / services.
However, as much as we don’t want to let tasks get to the urgent and important status, they are always our first priority when they occur.
Not Urgent / Important
This is your happy place. The tasks in this category are the very actions that grow and sustain your business. And because they aren’t popping up randomly, they are tasks you can schedule ahead. You want to spend as much time as possible focused on important tasks that aren’t urgent.
Some examples of tasks in this category are:
- Creating systems for your business.
- Completing necessary paperwork such as taxes.
- Finishing projects for your clients well before the deadline.
- Acquiring new clients through social media or direct marketing.
- Creating content for your blog / podcast.
- Self care (such as learning, relaxing, spending time with loved ones, etc.) that fills up your cup.
Obviously, some of these are lower in priority than others. This is where you can apply the tips I gave you at the beginning. Within this quadrant, which tasks speak to your integrity? Then, which tasks will directly grow your business? And finally, which tasks support your long-term business sustainability and brand awareness?
Most often, these are tasks you want to complete personally because they are the core of your business success. Keep in mind the examples above may apply to one business more than others. For example, if you’re running a huge business where your personal involvement isn’t a main selling point, creating content may be something you can easily delegate. In a smaller business such as mine, my content is what tells people who I am / what I can offer.
If you are running a smaller business where you feel like you have a ton to do in a given timeframe, please check out my batch working blog. It helps me keep my tasks in this quadrant while saving hours worth of work in the process.
Urgent / Not Important
Again, remember that when I say “not important,” I specifically mean it’s not important for you to complete personally. Welcome to the delegation / automation quadrant. If you’re thinking, “oh, Cassie… I don’t really like to delegate. I hate to spend the money paying someone to do something I can do myself,” I’m going to have to ask you to stop for a minute.
Investing in yourself and your business is a hard thing to do. I get it. TRUST me. However, think about it this way… Will delegating this task help me tangibly grow my business past what I’m spending to have another person do it? Most times, the answer is yes. I’m going to write an entire blog about this soon, so I don’t want to dive too deep, but here are some examples of urgent / not important tasks that you could delegate:
- Systems management for your online shop / services.
- Certain email / social media replies.
- Shipping out your products.
- Pinterest content creation / management.
- Website updating.
- Posting pre-written content / social media.
- Scheduling appointments.
Here’s what I see so often though… Women who are new in business and aren’t quite confident in what they’re doing yet tend to hide behind these tasks. They’re the safe and easy tasks, so instead of taking action to help grow their business, they just stay busy and justify how they’re “working.”
Just because you’re spending time on your business doesn’t mean it’s getting you results. If you are new to business and aren’t taking actions that directly acquire clients, please do yourself a favor and change that. You won’t get anywhere being passive. I would know! I spent over a year trying and ended up getting incredibly frustrated. If you need help figuring out what tasks you should personally be focused on for your specific business, reach out to me!
Bottom line? Don’t let these tasks take up a lot of your time – especially if you’re extremely busy with core business building actions.
Not Urgent / Not Important
Most people would read this heading and think, “well, if it’s not important and not urgent, why would I even care about it?” AHHHHH. You’re so spot on. Tasks that fall under this category add no value. Remove these tasks from your life / business. They’re just a waste of time.
I’m going to give you some examples of tasks in this category, but please remember that recreation and self-care NEVER fall under not urgent / not important. You cannot pour from an empty cup and life wasn’t meant to be lived behind a desk. Don’t make this mistake. Not making yourself a priority in your business will lead to burnout before you know it.
So here are some things that are not urgent / not important:
- Sorting through junk emails.
- Scrolling through social media aimlessly.
- Binge-watching Netflix.
- Reorganizing / renaming your files for the 20th time.
- Playing games on your phone excessively.
The key to most of these tasks is the degree to which you partake in them and the intentions behind them. For example, strategically engaging on social media is good; scrolling for hours only to leave one comment and 100 “likes” is not.
As much as I gave examples for each section, it’s up to you to decide which tasks are a priority in your own business. The key is to focus on actions that will grow your business and complete them well before the deadline.
While this is a good guide for business priorities specifically, check back in next week to learn how to make your LIFE a priority as well. Take some words of wisdom from Dolly Parton! “Don’t get so busy trying to make a living that you forget to make a life.”
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