Most of us entrepreneurs have tons of energy and excitement when we launch a new business or startup. We work fast and furiously, our vision of success spurring us to productivity. But as time goes by, and mundane, lengthy tasks demand our attention, that enthusiasm and ability to focus wanes. Getting work done becomes a huge challenge. On top of that, those of us who start businesses tend to be creative types with somewhat chaotic work styles. These factors create major barriers to success. Many entrepreneurs with incredible ideas encounter these barriers and simply give up. This was one of the motivating factors that led us to build our CRM for photographers.
In this post, I want to share four tactics that I use to regain that critical focus and energy to follow through with the everyday, lengthy tasks necessary for a business to succeed. As you’ll see, accountability forms the core of each tactic. By creating a circumstance that makes it extremely difficult to skip or abandon a task, task completion becomes an inevitability.
Admittedly, some of these strategies may seem old school, and perhaps they aren’t for everyone. That said, old school may work well for those of us who can’t easily adopt all the new time and project management technologies and or quickly change how we do things. Regardless of what camp you’re in—old school or new—read on and see if you think any of these tactics could help you push through to success.
Use the concept of accountability
I use the concept of accountability to help me continue toward my goals. When you apply this concept, you control your actions by creating a combination of situations that make it extremely difficult just to skip or not finish a task. Completing the task then becomes inevitable.
Admittedly, implementing this concept may not work for everyone. A lot of you may see it as old school. You are right. It is old school, but sometimes old school works better for those of us who can’t easily adopt all the new time and project management technologies and can’t change behaviors super quickly.
Here are some tactics for being accountable:
Idea #1 – Hire a personal assistant.
It’s easy to toss all business tasks into a huge, overwhelming and disorganized pile, and then ignore them or tackle them haphazardly. Hiring a personal assistant can help you manage and prioritize those tasks. Because you are spending money on the assistant, you will naturally ensure that he or she knows about those tasks and prods you to complete them. For example, without an assistant, you might accidentally or intentionally skip a meeting with a client. An assistant will remind you that you need to meet with the client, and assuming you gave him or her the authority to do so, will call you out on any excuses you may use to try to skip the meeting.
While some people say that project management software negates the need for a personal assistant or task manager, that’s only true if you use it. Many of us simply forget to do so, or think that the software takes too much time to learn and use. Think of a personal assistant as human, living software that helps you get your work done. Worried about costs? A personal assistant doesn’t have to cost an arm or a leg. Rather than hiring a personal assistant as an employee, consider contracting for weekly or monthly hours with a freelancer. You could even use an assistant from overseas.
Idea #2 – Create an inbox for all tasks that need to be done
Each day, you get lots of ideas that for tasks you want to work on. You may start working on them immediately, keep them in your head, or even write them down in a notebook. To help your personal assistant capture, track, and prioritize your tasks, create an inbox for him or her. Any time you have an idea, send it directly to your personal assistant. The inbox can be a physical box or an electronic file—it’s not an email inbox.
Remember, your personal assistant’s function is to store, remember everything you need to do, and remind you about those tasks and commitments at the right time. In practice, it looks like this: You get an idea, you instantly share it with your assistant, and he or she adds it to the inbox file. Once a week or month, your assistant sits down with you to review, prioritize, and schedule all your tasks. You’re unlikely to leave tasks unfinished because you know that a fresh set of tasks awaits you the next day.
Without the assistant and the inbox, you’ll get those same ideas, but three things tend to happen: you start tasks but never finish them, write them down but forget to get back to them, or simply forget about them.
Idea #3 – Start working with a partner
You can also place yourself in a position of accountability by working with one or more partners. If you work alone, no one has oversight of what you are (or are not) doing. You can easily skip or decide to avoid a project or a task, rationalizing that you don’t have time or that the task lacks importance. Then you forget about the task and never get back to it.
Working with one or more partners changes things. Each person looks at the other or others and tries to work the same number of hours or complete the same amount of work. If you find that you’re not effective when working with a particular partner, you likely chose the wrong partner—perhaps one who isn’t as motivated as you or who lacks a good work ethic. The right partner pushes you to work harder, and without even trying to, makes you feel embarrassed when you slack off.
Idea #4 – Put a price on your word
Have you ever noticed how often movies include the words “I promise?” People make so many promises, yet fail to meet them most of the time. In movies, characters fail to make good on their promises because they promise something that’s impossible to accomplish. In real life, we promise things and then tend to forget about them.
When you put a price against your word or promise, everything changes. For example, what if you promised to lose 20 pounds by the end of this year and someone responded, “Okay, what price do you put on your word? specified You’d probably be surprised, right? But believe it or not, this tactic works. You set a goal and then create a negative consequence for failing to complete the goal.
Use this technique if you want to complete a goal that you believe can realistically be achieved with hard work. Find someone you trust, like your partner, parents or a friend and make your promise to them. Then establish the price and consequences for not keeping your promise, and ask them to hold you to it.
Most of the time, when you have a significant penalty for not completing a goal, you will get it done. It’s easier to do that than to lose something. Of course, it all depends on the price you set for your word and your honesty. Would you be honest and pay the fine if you failed to complete the task? It won’t work if you don’t pay the consequence.
A call for more tactics to get things done
Have any of you tried tactics like the ones I’ve described? What kind of tricks do you use to get things done? Share your ideas in the comments below. I may add some of them to this post with a link to your profile or website.