The Business Solutions column in our Expert Network section is designed to be your personal business advisory sounding board with experts from different business areas available to answer your questions. The format for this as with other Expert Network sections will not be unlike a “Dear Abby” for business; however, SNEWS® will expand beyond the typical single columnist to tap into a broader panel of experts, many from among SNEWS readers. Together with experts, this forum is so you, our readers, can discuss a topic, chime in with your own ideas, and suggest different recommendations to a variety of business concerns or issues.
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Q. I recognize the need to focus on the big picture, but everyday when I walk into work I am confronted with a non-stop stream of emergencies. I never have the luxury of spending time on the things that will make my business more successful in the future. How can I break this vicious cycle?
A. The mere fact that you recognize this is great news. Sometimes we get so buried in the day-to-day elements of our business that we don’t even see the need to fly at a higher level and pay attention to what it will take for our business to survive and thrive in the medium and long term.
Now that you have recognized both the need for focusing on the big picture and your difficulty in doing so, the next step is to recognize that doing things as you always have done them is not going to change your situation, and you must commit to making personal change in order to, as you put it, break the vicious cycle.
What kind of personal change? At the core of the issue is your ability to have control over how you spend your time. Here are some tips that will help you do so:
>> Each time you are confronted with an emergency, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this really an emergency or is it just something that is in my face at this moment? Can I postpone addressing it for the time being with minimal consequences?
- Am I really the best person to address this, or is there someone else on our team that can do it as well or better than I can?
- Try to understand the root cause of the emergency and solve that problem, not just the symptoms.
- After the time-sensitive crisis has passed, spend some time evaluating the circumstances surrounding it. Look for action you can take — in the form of a new policy or procedure, for instance — to prevent it from happening again.
- Look for trends in the emergencies that come up. They will help you in really understanding the cause and thus help you truly solve the problem.
- If your staff comes to you often with problems, develop the habit of answering with questions, not answers: “How would you handle this?” “What do you think we should do?” “Do you really need my help on this, or can you handle it yourself?” “How about you dig into this and come back to me with a suggestion for how to fix this problem?”
>> Evaluate how you spend your time. This evaluation can take the form of an informal awareness where you simply ask yourself periodically through the day what types of things have been taking up your time. Or it could be in the form of a more formal time management log. We suggest the latter. Unlike the emergencies that constantly plague you, a time management log is an investment in time, not an expense of time; it will give you more time in the end.
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