Over the last few weeks, we have discussed several entrepreneurial issues, building them from the ground up. We have discussed mindset, business planning, funding, staffing, etc. Today we will be discussing one common factor that binds all successful entrepreneurs together: Getting things done.
Jack Welch, the former Chief Executive of General Electric (‘GE’), was one of the greatest corporate executives of modern times. He succeeded in sharpening the focus of the behemoth GE is. He made it a highly responsive and competitive giant, raising its market capitalisation from $14 billion to about $400 billion over a period of twenty years and making it the then most valuable company in the world. Mr. Welch was passionate about ‘execution’ or getting things done.
Nothing happens unless you do something. In fact, if you don’t do something, it is bad stuff that usually happens. Remember entropy and Murphy’s ‘law’? So how do you develop the personal discipline of getting things done?
Always start within your mind: Everything we do or don’t actually starts from our minds, either consciously or subconsciously. The most successful people in all trades and professions, are always conscious of what they are doing. Fundamentally, they have internalised to ‘do something’ about anything important that comes their way. They may not like what is happening, but they will always consider the issue seriously and then take appropriate action. Condition your mind and your body to take appropriate action anytime anything comes up.
Be very comfortable solving problems: Many of us wish for a world and a business life in which there are no problems. Well, sorry, the world doesn’t operate that way. Our best plans are challenged, and we must always be ready to adjust what is happening to what we want to see happen. The richest man on the African continent, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said something like, when he wakes up every morning, he gets ready to solve problems (that have to do with seizing some opportunity). That is the life of success. It is a life of ‘getting things done’.
Create a routine: The most successful and the least successful people in the world all have twenty-four hours in a day. But the former are very effective and efficient in the use of their time.
In this information age, it is very easy to get distracted with the phones, the computers, as well as the television and even friends. To succeed, you must create a routine in your life. You should plan your day, making your ‘to-do list’ usually the night before. Start your day early. The extra hour in the mornings you are able to create will add up substantially in the course of the years.
Prioritise and plan: There are always several things to do. But the most successful people are able to choose what will add the most value in their lives and professions and accord them required priority. To prioritise effectively, you must be able to distinguish between what is urgent and what is important and act wisely.
Some people are ‘morning people’ and some others are ‘evening people’, meaning that they tend to be most productive in the mornings and evenings respectively. Whatever type of person you may be, you should try to discharge the most important tasks at the times of the day you are most productive. Set out times to check and respond to your mails, conduct your meetings, exercise, take breaks, exercise, etc. And another important time you must set out is your ‘quiet time’ during which you can be alone to review important documents, think through important issues, etc.
Set deadlines: All tasks, especially the most important ones must have deadlines. Never leave tasks open-ended. Setting deadlines helps you overcome procrastination. It also makes you accountable to yourself irrespective of third-party interests in the tasks at hand. In setting deadlines, try to push yourself but also be realistic.
Focus: A very important dimension of effective execution is ‘focus’. Forget all the calls for ‘multi-tasking’ by many who probably derive their satisfaction just from doing many things at the same time irrespective of the ultimate results they deliver. Rather, learn to focus on the important things you are trying to do. Think through them very well; go through an intelligent problem-solving process, make your decisions and then begin to take action. Focus eliminates noise and distractions, and it enhances the quality of your decisions.
Add ‘no’ to your dictionary: Irrespective of what we do, there will be all sorts of requests from others. It could be an invitation to attend a meeting, wedding, a cocktail party, or for some business favours. Look at all such requests critically and be sure that they are important in the global scheme of what you are doing. If not, do not hesitate to extend a polite but firm ‘no’. You need to free your time for other more important activities.
Reward yourself: In our hyperactive world, it is very easy for us to fail to realise our successes. Sometimes, we often benchmark with others and don’t take notice of our daily triumphs. This is not just wrong but counterproductive. We should appreciate ourselves and be grateful for our accomplishments not just by being conscious of them but also by giving ourselves legitimate treats.
No matter how good your business plan or how competent your staff may be, you will not achieve anything unless you and your people develop and maintain a culture of getting things done timely, effectively and efficiently. But we must also know exactly what we are doing. So, next week on The Entrepreneur, we will discuss prioritisation.