Want to grow your business? Then spend 80% of your energy on just 20% of your tasks.
How long is your to do list today? How many tasks, meetings or events are in your calendar between now and the end of the month? Dozens? Fifty? Hundreds?
Now, how many of these will actually progress the growth of your business? How many will move the needle and directly contribute to revenue? Hazarding a guess, you could probably count the ones that will really have an impact on your company’s bottom line on your fingers.
To keep your business moving forward you need to be able to distinguish between two kinds of tasks: progressive tasks and maintenance tasks.
Until you can tell the difference and act on it, your business is unlikely to reach its potential.
Moving forward or standing still?
So what’s the difference between maintenance and progress tasks?
A maintenance task is something that has to be done, but doesn’t actively move you forward to your business goals. This is everything from filing your expenses to ordering new computers for the office.
In contrast, progress tasks clearly have an outcome that puts your organisation in a better place. It could be closing off a series of sales or signing a contract with a new client.
No matter how tough business leaders like to think they are or how many caffeine fuelled late shifts they can put in each week, the reality is there is only so much energy you can put into your work and keep the quality up.
What you need to be able to do as a leader is devote the bulk of your energy to the progress tasks.
Complexity is your enemy, simplicity drives success
Momentum is everything in business and you need to focus on using your drive where it makes a difference.
Your maintenance tasks must be done of course, but you must have the discipline to do them efficiently and effectively. You simply can’t expect to devote most of your energy to admin tasks and be an effective leader. Whether it’s delegating your tasks to the correct member of your team, hiring new staff or getting in the right technology and software, you have to find a way to free yourself up to remain focused on the core issues.
Sit down and figure out the split between progress tasks and maintenance tasks. In my experience, when a business is struggling to grow consistently or experiences success in short fits and bursts, one of the key reasons is managers are spending as little as a quarter of their time on progress tasks.
As hard as it may seem, you need to flip that dynamic. 80% of your time and energy levels should probably be spent on just 20% of your tasks.
Ignore business gurus who try to overcomplicate running a business. Complexity will clog things up, keep it simple. If Task A moves the needle, focus on it with everything you have for as long as is needed. If Task B doesn’t flip a switch, be brisk, efficient and move on.
Tomorrow never comes
I’ve attended countless board meetings where a company is struggling to break through a seemingly invisible barrier halting their growth. I always ask them what is the one thing they would most like to be able to do that would make a difference to the company’s bottom line. What’s the one thing they haven’t gotten around to because they are too bogged down in other tasks?
Almost inevitably at the next meeting that task still hasn’t been tackled. The excuse? “We were too busy!”
When you look at that situation in isolation it makes no sense. But that is the extreme reality of what happens when energy is filtered into maintenance tasks over progress tasks. It’s a mind-set and if your company has it you have to change it.
Once you’ve identified the one task that can transform your company, that’s where you must focus every drop of energy you have. Because if you are waiting until the maintenance tasks are all done before starting, guess what? They never will be.
Focus and move forward
It’s not about how many tasks you do a week, it’s about how many steps you’ve taken on your journey. If you try to do everything, you’ll either end up doing almost nothing or doing things below par.
You must always be moving forward. So take a look at your diary and put 80% of your energy into the right 20% of the tasks you have lined up. You won’t regret it.