It’s the essential entrepreneurial skill that is under appreciated: knowing what not to do.
In small towns, entrepreneurs tend to have more than one line of business. Some have seasonal businesses, and some just have different lines of income within their business. Where we have fewer people in our local market, it makes sense to diversify our income.
But that leads to overwhelm. With so many things to keep moving, it’s easy to get lost on what matters. That’s where the skill of discretion comes in.
Big secret in business:
There will always be more to do
than you have time and energy to get done.
Every task or problem or issue in your business seems important. Experts come along every day urging you to complete their checklist, adopt their ideas, accept their priorities. Trying to do everything too often means doing the wrong things at the expense of the things that matter.
To survive, you have to learn which things to do and which not to do. A good place to start is the 3 key Income Producing Activities.
If you’ve never thought about it, you won’t know. You’ll waste a lot of time and energy deciding what gets done and what you can safely let slide.
Common time sinks to watch for
Your business isn’t the same as mine. What seems like an essential task to your business may be the lower priority in mine. Here are a few common time sinks to watch for and limit.
Spend less time trying to wring every last bit of performance out of something that works well enough. That could be your website, your training, or your processes.
Amazon may launch a thousand experiments every day to optimize their site, but you are not Amazon. If your site is working well enough, don’t invest huge chunks of time in making it just a little bit better.
Your business will never be fully optimized. Things are always changing. Save tiny improvement ideas until you have enough to add up to make it worth the time to pursue.
Of course you want to make your business better, but not to the extent that it keeps you from doing things that would generate more results.
Learning the wrong skills
I’m not saying never learn anything new. I’m saying let go of learning things you don’t need.
Unless graphic design is your business, do you need to spend hundreds of hours learning how to use Adobe Illustrator? Or could you hire a designer to handle the job for a reasonable amount?
- 30 minutes of focused action online that connects you to potential customers = Good
- 3 hours of aimless browsing, liking and scrolling = Bad
Pick just a few online activities that matter to your business. Put them on a daily checklist. Follow the checklist until done, then get on to the next task. Turn off the internet on your computer, if you have to, and keep your focus on things that matter.
Save the scrolling, liking and browsing for outside of working hours when you can indulge with less guilt.
Tracking too much detail
Track the level of detail that makes sense for your business, and no more. Do not track details that you won’t use to make business decisions.
When I taught QuickBooks classes for local business, people would fall in love with all the detail they could see in the sample reports. They’d start to setup multiple layers of details to track in their business. But entering all that data day after day would add up to a lot of time maintaining data they’d never use to make a decision. Smarter to not track it in the first place if it doesn’t make sense for your business.
It’s not just your accounting software. Look at your point of sale software, payroll system, calendar, or customer records. If the data won’t help you make better decisions, why are you spending time recording it?
What time sinks have you plugged in your business? What do you deliberately not do?
- About the Author
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.