As small business people, we spend a lot of our time putting out brush fires. When we arrive at work in the morning, we probably have in mind the things we hope to get done during the day. But five minutes later, our best customer calls with a problem or a key piece of machinery breaks down, and in a flash, whatever plan we had for the day is gone.
Most consultants are familiar with a two-by-two grid where one axis says “Important” and “Not Important” while the other says “Urgent” and “Not Urgent.” Unfortunately, many of us spend far too much time in the part of the grid where “Urgent” and “Not Important” intersect. Is it urgent to get a key piece of equipment back in operation quickly? Of course. But will that be important to the long-term health and growth of the business? Probably not.
Each of us needs to carve out some protected time to work on the business, not in the business. We need to commit to some time each week . . . maybe a day, maybe half a day, maybe just a few hours . . . for activities that will move the business forward in a measurable, strategic way. If you can accomplish that by closing your office door and unplugging the phone, fine. If not, go to the library or to a coffee shop, or maybe work from home. However you do it, find a way each week to put aside your fire-fighting gear for awhile and focus on the longer term problems and opportunities for your business.
Can’t do that? You can’t be out-of-touch with the business for even a little while? Then your first “important” task is figuring out how to change your organization so that it runs just fine whether you happen to be on the premises or not.