HIGH-profile corporate CEOs get the adulation but bigger businesses are far less dependent on individuals than smaller concerns.
In large corporations, there is almost always an executive team of highly qualified and experienced people.
Small businesses, on the other hand, rarely have such an inherent comparative advantage. They are usually composed of very few people, often just you, the owner to begin with, and so are much more exposed to the consequences of your behaviour. In our experience, some of the best methods to become more effective are:
Audit your behaviour
Nothing beats good data. Keep a log of what you do each day using 30, 60 or 90-minute intervals. You'll be amazed at where your time goes and how little value you get.
Limit the 'to-do' list
Identify the most important two to three things you must do today and work on number one until it is finished.
This sounds simple, but it is actually not easy, as human beings are far more disposed to be distracted by trivia – unnecessary interruptions, email, gossip, interesting asides, etc.
Organise your day
It is much easier to do the harder things earlier in the day, as you are rested and your brain is not depleted.
Keep your least-productive time for routine tasks and things that don't require your 'best brain'.
Many of us unwittingly allow others to schedule our day. Scheduling the important items in your diary will defend you from other people's demands and the chaos that is always threatening a business.
Check out or even disappear
One of the reasons many businesses don't advance is because the leader never gets a chance to think about the bigger picture, review strategy, plan for the future, etc.
Take time out as it gets you out of the day-to-day and forces you to be strategic.
Procrastinate – on the right stuff
We all procrastinate on some things. The thing that differentiates effective managers from all the rest is that they procrastinate on the less important stuff.
Learn to identify what's most important. Accept that you will never get everything done. Procrastinate on the stuff that doesn't matter – forever, if necessary.
Take charge of the technology
Email, text messaging and mobile phones have been fantastic for business – especially for smaller ones and those located in remote places.
However, they have the potential to be very distracting, thereby reducing your effectiveness and productivity, so use them wisely.
Multi-tasking doesn't work. Your brain can only attend to one thing at a time (unless very routine tasks).
At any point you should be attending to only one thing with a clear head.
Outsource where you can
You have lots of big, difficult, meaty things to do to make your business thrive. Your job is to identify what tasks can and should go elsewhere.
A virtual assistant can be a great way of delegating tasks in a cost-effective way (if based in another continent they'll work while you're asleep).
Get into the flow
Plenty of research supports the idea that we are at our best and our happiest when fully absorbed in a particular task and working at the edge of our abilities. You owe it to yourself and your business to be busy on worthwhile things and to prevent your flow of opportunities from being poisoned by frenzy.
Look after yourself – remember the basics
Good nutrition, regular exercise, sleep and adequate water intake are vital basics for everyone. You must take care of yourself if you want to be the best you can, reach your highest potential and build the best business possible.
Nobody gets all of this right all of the time, but it's worth making the effort to get it right more than you get it wrong.
Joanne Hession runs the business training company QED Training (www.QEDtraining.ie) and has recently written a book 'Don't Get A Job, Build A Business', co-authored by business author and consultant Joan Baker.