Running a business has been the singular activity that has stretched my mental abilities and stamina and after going through tough circumstances and exhilarating achievements, here are five tips for working smarter and not harder.
Minimise checking email
Nearly everyone is addicted to email and most business people barely spend more than 30 minutes away from their mailbox. The challenge lies in what’s waiting for you when you read your emails, including trying to solve everyone’s difficulties. Your most pressing tasks are forced to take a back seat when you do this. I recommend looking through your task list in the morning and resolving to tackle one key task before looking into your emails.
Even if you do check your mailbox, limit it to two to three times a day to ensure that you spend most of your time executing instead of scanning through emails, Facebook and Twitter, which take up a chunk of your time.
Isolate yourself regularly
As an entrepreneur, you are constantly surrounded by people, be they your colleagues, your business partners or even clients, which means you barely have time to reflect and analyse situations.
Reflection time is extremely important because it can determine if you can bring the business to the next level or keep running in that hamster wheel and fighting fires every day.
Every two weeks, take time to be quiet and without any disturbance to focus on growing your business to the next level through reflection.
Surround yourself with smarter people
The reality is you will never have all the answers. Also, there is someone out there who has all the answers that you are seeking. Therefore, it is important to surround yourself with an assortment of people who are smarter and wiser than you to inspire and provide new perspectives on your current situations and challenges.
If you are the smartest person in that room, then it is time to change rooms.
Try new experiences
Creativity is a core element of success in business because every company is so similar in their deliverables and promises. Hence, every company should focus on differentiating itself from the rest by injecting one to two unique elements into its offerings.
How does one cultivate creativity in order to conceptualise this? By constantly putting oneself through new experiences that force the mind to learn different types of knowledge and form new connections that help us view reality a bit differently.
Innovation and failure are often closely related because not all experiments will turn out to be successful and innovation only occurs with frequent trials. In Asia, failure is often discouraged, hence many business owners end up maintaining their current business for many years because they fear entering a new market, expanding a line or changing their current clientele.
However, big achievements are seldom attained with low risk, hence to move ahead faster, failure should be part of the equation to encourage multiple experiments into the unknown. However, the possible repercussion (or loss) should always allow the business owner to regain his footing if it does not take off. The risk should be manageable in the worst case scenario.
Every business owner should attempt to work smarter because everyone has the same hours in their day and the goal is to evolve faster than your competitors. With these five steps, you will be able to leapfrog your competitors by competing against them in unexpected ways.
Pam Siow is the founder of ThinkSpace. ThinkSpace specialises in helping companies launch their new products or services through an integrated marketing plan. Learn more at www.thinkspace.com.my. The STAR SME Business August 5, 2014