Think and plan before taking action – Part 2

This is one of a series of blogs written specifically for those people in small businesses who are responsible for winning sales.  These people will often have other roles and responsibilities which requires them to be very time-efficient during their selling activities.  Larger businesses are likely to employ one or more full-time salespeople and this blog series is also written to help these people.

Last time I outlined how procrastination can become a massive barrier preventing small businesses from maximising their sales successes.  In fact, procrastination will have a debilitating impact on every part of your small business and when it does appear you need to address it promptly.  We looked at how to apply the Pareto Principle to produce significant outputs in relatively short timescales.  We looked at the Think-Plan-Do approach to successfully complete tasks, rather than undertaking fairly random activities in a hurry only to find out they were not the most important tasks.

This time, we’ll explore how you should tackle those big, daunting tasks that just seem too large for your small business to complete successfully.

Break big tasks into smaller pieces.  The secret to completing extremely large tasks or goals is to break them into smaller pieces and plan out how you will complete each piece of the jigsaw using the Think-Plan-Do method.

Sometimes, however, you will just get stuck or feel very little forward progress is being made.

When this happens (and it will happen at some stage), step back from the project and review things in detail.  Look at the breakdown of action steps, their priority and sequencing.  It could be that with a bit of adjustment, you will regain your momentum.

Sometimes the problems will arise because of poor planning.  Just go back and re-plan in more detail.  Frequently, when you first draw up the plan not all the tasks could be captured with sufficient detail.  By revisiting the plan with the knowledge you now have,  after completing some of the early tasks,  you will almost certainly be able to make improvements.

It is unlikely you will be able to determine all the action steps for large tasks at the beginning or put them all in the correct order.  However, you should always be able to determine enough action steps to allow some progress to be made.  Keep reviewing and revising your plans in the light of both progress and experience.

Always reflect on which tasks represent the 20% of tasks which will produce 80% of the results.  Focus your energies on those “20% tasks” so that your time is invested in high value tasks.  Always track your progress against your plan so you can readily spot when you are veering off track or falling behind schedule.

The main message from the last two blogs is to caution you from launching into action too early.  It is so easy to make a misjudgement and spend valuable time doing something that either didn’t need to be done or which turns out to be a low-value task.  Slow down and take the time to think about the sequence of (high impact) tasks.  Then get to work on the most important ones.

In summary, you must THINK about the action steps that need to be undertaken in order for you to meet your goal.  You then PLAN each step in detail and focus on the 20% of tasks that leverage 80% of the results.  Then you can take ACTION, to move yourself towards your goal.

ACTION IDEAS

  1. Apply the Pareto Principle before starting any activity to confirm you are tackling a 20% task with high impact on your performance.  If you have to perform a low impact task, at least you will be doing so with total awareness.  Avoid sleepwalking into low-impact tasks.
  2. Spend enough time planning your schedule to maximise the results you will achieve once you begin to take action.  Follow the Think-Plan-Do strategy,
  3. Break down large tasks into smaller sub-tasks.  There is no limit on how small each sub-task should be, break things down until every sub-task appears manageable.
Posted in Time Management