Working in your business can sometimes feel really hard; especially if you’re a solopreneur. You’ve got a lot on your plate, and often a never-ending ‘to do’ list. Unfortunately, buckling down to work harder and longer hours will only take you so far. Instead, you need to pause and take some time out from working in your business to work on your business.
Regularly spending time working on your business can have enormous benefits.
Working on your business includes:
- setting a direction and planning for your business
- developing support systems and checklists
- engaging a coach, mentor or peer group to provide you with an outside perspective
- researching industry trends and developments
- creating an organised and healthy workplace.
‘But I can’t afford the time!’ you might say. ‘I’ll get even more behind.’
You need to get your house in order and stop working in default mode.
Otherwise you’re more subject to external forces and the whims of others; can easily waste your efforts working in a random piecemeal approach; and sometimes even lose sight of why you’re really here. It’s also harder to grow your business strategically, and make clear, focused decisions.
The key here is balance.
There’s a limit to how much time you can spend finessing your business plan, playing with brand colours, or formatting your invoice template, before it turns into procrastination and stagnation for your business. You still need to be taking action to engage and serve your customers to bring in the money.
You just need to make sure that the action you’re taking is aligned with what you want for your business. The best way to do that is to create a vision and plan for your business.
These four steps provide the foundation for planning your business:
You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Before you work out where you want to go, it’s useful to reflect and learn from your past experience.
My favourite reflection tool is called ‘Stop, Start and Continue’. It involves asking yourself, as of today, what would you like to stop doing, start doing and continue doing in your business? Then factor these responses into the plan that you create for your business.
2) Set your vision and business direction
Where do you want to take your business into the future?
This is a great opportunity to get your creative juices flowing. You can tap into your brain’s natural capacity for expansive ‘big picture’ thinking by creating a collage or drawing a picture of your ideal business vision.
If that doesn’t feel comfortable, then just think and imagine – what your ideal business situation would look like in 3, 5 or 10 years’ time? Make your ideal vision as vivid as possible. For instance, what environment are you in? What are you doing? Who else is there? Who are you serving? What benefits are you creating? Include as many details as you can. For instance, what are you wearing? Can you hear anything? Smell anything? Write it all down. Draw a picture if you like.
3) Set one goal for the year
What one thing will take you closer to your desired business vision?
Pick one big headline goal for the coming year. You can have sub-goals or strategies. But having one big goal creates focus, makes decision making easier, and it’s easier to share your goal with others and potentially enlist them to help.
4) Regularly review and adjust your actions
You need a way to regularly monitor your progress toward your goal and correct your course if necessary.
I start each Monday morning by conducting a review of the previous week (alternatively you could do this at the end of the week). My weekly reflection includes expressing gratitude, seeing how I moved towards my headline goal, and identifying how I can improve the coming week. I then create a ‘to do’ list for the coming week that is aligned with my monthly and yearly goals. Every day I start with a quick check-in to work out what my priorities are for each day before plunging into my ‘to do’ list.
How to fit it all in.
It’s up to you. It’s possible to take a half to full day out per year to reflect and set your direction for the coming year. If you’re keen, you could also do this at the start or end of every financial quarter.
The biggest payoff comes from regularly checking in on your progress and making sure that your ‘to do’ list actions will move you towards your goal (rather than filling your day with a whole lot of busywork). It doesn’t need to take more than an hour spread over your week. It’s not a lot of time really. And the return can be enormous!
Working on your business on a regular basis can reap great benefits for you and your business.
When you’re a small business owner it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending all your time working in your business, and forget about working on your business. But it’s important to set the direction for your business and create a plan to take you there. A plan with a clear vision and goal creates a focus, and can stop you from getting distracted by the latest shiny new trend, or pulled around by lots of unrelated projects. Working on your business by setting your business’ direction, makes it easier to seize growth opportunities, while keeping you on track to create the impact and results you’re after.
Natalia Walker, Inner Creative
Natalia Walker, founder of Inner Creative, empowers entrepreneurs to unlock their creativity to create a business that’s more aligned with who they are and what they want.