Its the start of a new year, and by now you should have your plan for the next 90 days in place. Its time to focus on making things happen. But, have you given yourself enough time to do just that?

Why do I need time to focus?

If you’re going to concentrate on a project for the next 90 days, you need some time to do just that. You’ve probably got a full schedule already. Just by focusing on one project may well help you free some time, because chances are you’ve been trying to do several things in the past few weeks.

Concentrating on one thing reduces the load you place on yourself considerably, but your day to day still takes loads of effort. Chances are if you’re the only person in your business, you’re defaulting to doing absolutely everything, and, therefore, you’re getting consumed by the detail. What you should be doing is working on your business rather than in it; trying to free up as much of your own time from those day to day things as possible. I know this isn’t easy.

​Think about the return on your effort. I think the return on effort is the main metric that every small business should be looking at. How much value do you add for an hour of your own time?

There are lots and lots of things you do that don’t add any value at all, while there are other things that add lots and lots of value. Chances are some of those high value tasks get pushed into the margins because while they are important they aren’t urgent, and because we see some of the lower value adding tasks as being quite urgent and prioritise those instead. Does this strike a nerve?

​If you are the only person in your business you try to do things you really shouldn’t.. Think about web design for example, its just one of the things the average business owner will try to do himself to start with, but can all be done much better by employing specialists. I’m sure you can think of many more examples in your own business. What we tend not to do is bring in specialists at the right time.

How do I make time to focus?

​One of the things I’d recommend is to create four lists, and put onto those four lists all of the things that you regularly do:

  • List 1, the things you really hate doing. Those have to be the first tasks you think about getting rid of. Remove these, and not only do you give yourself time to focus on what matters, you increase your personal happiness too.
  • List 2, Things you do, but you’re really not the expert. You get by doing these things but only just. This is stuff you should be giving to the specialists. Why are you trying to do your own web design? The hardest lesson for the business owner working by himself is realising he doesn’t have to do everything himself.
  • List 3, Things you might be quite good at, but really the business owner shouldn’t be doing. I fall into that trap. I’m an accountant, and I do my own bookkeeping, and build my own business accounts every year, and do my own tax returns. Should I be doing that as a business owner? Probably not. It’s probably not where I do the best work in the business.
  • List 4, The tasks you excel at, and where you add the most value to the business. Things that you really enjoy doing.

If you take these four lists, you can then see very easily which tasks you should be working on, and where you might delegate or outsource.

To make the lists either think back on all the things you have done in the last week, list them out, then allocate them to a list. Better still, start keeping a journal and record how you spend your time. You will soon see the things that are stopping you focussing on the one thing that is most important right now.

Your question: What should I aim to remove from my personal task list across the next 90 days to allow me to use my own time more productively?