I don't know about you, but I feel blessed to live in this period of history. One of the most important reasons why is the internet.
The internet allows me to have all kinds of experiences I'd never be able to enjoy otherwise. For instance, I've witnessed the delight of a deaf baby hearing his mother's voice for the first time. I've downloaded pictures taken on the surface of Mars. I can also learn directly from business experts such as Jeff Bezos.
We are now able to have richer and far more varied life experiences than any humans before us. And the amount of knowledge available to us, with merely a few keystrokes, is almost unimaginable.
And therein lies the rub for entrepreneurs.
If you are like me and most of the business people I know, you spend a lot of time online researching best practices and learning from other folks in business. You've probably also subscribed to many email lists, have more than 50 RSS feeds on the go and have almost certainly attended a webinar or two.
These are all great ideas. However, there is no point in learning everything the hard way or reinventing the wheel. But... where do you draw the line?
Given the wealth of information available, it's too easy to fall into the trap of confusing learning and preparation with actual productivity. This is especially true if you are investigating things such as marketing. How much time have you spent looking for that one magic tactic that will really rocket your business? Compare this to the amount of time you've dedicated to working on your business. (This is sometimes referred to as "shiny object syndrome"—becoming distracted by the latest business trend or fad).
As we begin a new year, now is as good a time as any to rid ourselves of bad habits and regroup. Start by examining all the notes and ideas that you jotted down in 2012 and condense everything into a list. If you actually implemented anything you learned last year, cross it off and give yourself a pat on the back.
Now comes the hard part: letting go of some items, even your favourites.
One of the unfortunate realities of life, even in the 21st century, is that there are still only 24 hours in a day. Even if you put yourself on a caffeine intravenous drip, it would be impossible to do everything on your list. Staffing up won't help either, because trying to do it all will only result in a scattershot approach that achieves very little, if anything.
How do you prioritize? Here are two metrics that I try to use:
- What will give me the best results with the least amount of effort and expense?
- Which of these items can dovetail or be leveraged with things that I am already doing?
It's critical to involve your staff in this exercise, especially if your execution depends on them. I am blessed with people who give me pushback and help me focus when I need it. As a result, we are (usually) able to find that happy middle ground between my crazy goals and reality.
If anything on your list meets both of the criteria above, it's a no-brainer: go do it right now! As for the rest, set up a schedule with some definite deadlines for you and your staff.
Meanwhile, try to avoid the webinar circuit for a while. It is a distraction you do not need on your path to success.
Chandra Clarke is the president of Scribendi.com, an award-winning, ISO-certified company that provides document-revision services to corporations and SMEs around the world. She blogs about the issues particular to female entrepreneurs at NeverPink.com.
More columns by Chandra Clarke