As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds of your business, spending each day fending off the deluge of incoming emails and putting out fires. But just because that’s an easy mode to be in, doesn’t make it a good one. And it doesn’t take much time in this routine before your work will start to feel tedious and your business stagnant.
That’s why it’s good to conduct a refocusing session every couple of months. Taking a few scheduled, structured hours away from the computer will do you and your business wonders. Not only will you get a much-needed break from the daily grind, but you’ll also be able to immerse yourself in the big picture, find focus for the coming months, and get into a good and happy groove again.
So find a productive offsite location, schedule a meeting with yourself, and, once you’re there, dig in to these three topics.
1. What I Want the Business to do Better
Most of us have a long list of things about our businesses that we feel aren’t being done as well as they could. Maybe your website is in need of an update, perhaps you’re lacking an editorial calendar for your blog, or maybe your new customer materials are a little confusing.
On a blank piece of paper, list all the things that “bug” you about your business. What’s not quite up to snuff? Then looking at that list, pick three that really matter. Perhaps they impact sales or customer satisfaction, or maybe they aren’t congruent with the overall brand experience that you want to create.
Next Steps: Determine what it will take to do them
For each of the items you noted, decide what it will take to improve them and what information you need before taking action. Set up any information gathering initiatives as soon as possible. If they come with a high price tag, then brainstorm ways to fit them in the budget—like allocating a certain amount per month or setting new sales milestones that will help ease the financial burden.
2. What I Want to do Better Myself
Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We know that if we sit down at the computer without a specific task list that we will spend hours doing nothing but email—yet we do it anyway. We know that most multi-tasking decreases efficiency—yet we still pinball our attention back and forth between tasks of varying size and importance.
Give yourself 20 minutes to make your own “needs improvement” list. Think about your typical work behavior. When do you feel most depleted, lost, frazzled or stressed? Why? And most importantly, what would make the difference? A cleaned out inbox? A clutter-free desk? Less nighttime email?
Next Steps: Pick 10 work rules to live by
Whittle down your undoubtedly big list to 10 items or less. Turn each of them into a rule to live by—but be fair to yourself. Anything too rigid surely won’t be helpful. Each one should start with “I always try to… ”
Type them up on one list and post it in a visible place where you work. Then, slowly integrate them into your work habits by adopting a new one each week.
3. What I’m Currently Thinking Through
Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time grappling with big questions: Am I making enough money? Should I sell this business? Should I take on a partner? Should I venture into a new market area? Should I raise money or continue to bootstrap?
These are all serious questions that aren’t easily answered. As such, most entrepreneurs tend to keep them on the back burner, mulling them over only when it’s absolutely necessary. The problem is, though, that things left on the back burner get in the way of what’s currently cooking. They can slow down or inhibit important business decisions. And the uncertainty they add can weaken your commitment to good business strategies.
Next Steps: De-clutter the back burner
Take some time to think about the biggest questions facing your business. Select three or less that are most crucial to the work being done in the next 6-18 months.
Clarify them. Are you really thinking about getting a partner? Or is the question, “how can make my experience of entrepreneurship less lonely?” or “how can I get the industry expertise to grow my business in the direction I want?”
Give yourself a generous number of months to contemplate, consider, and research the question without answering it or making a steadfast decision. Decide to only be a consumer of information. Brainstorm a short list of things that you can do to educate yourself more, then get them on the calendar. Replenish the list each time you get to the bottom. Most importantly, take the remainder of questions you didn’t chose and put them on one big list labeled “Not Now.” It will serve as a gentle reminder that you can’t address everything at once and that in order to move forward, some questions will need to go unanswered.
These exercises can be good at any point in your business, but they’re particularly helpful when you’re stuck in a bad routine. Remember that, as the boss, it’s up to you to set the tenor and tone for your work. So give yourself permission to play hooky from the usual and bring back a fresh perspective.